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How Strengths-based Approaches Benefit Juvenile Hearing Boards

Picture this: You are a Juvenile Hearing Board member arriving for a hearing. You settle in and look over the arrest report on your first youth case. Usually, this police report is all you learn about the youth until you meet them at the hearing.

But today, you are also given a profile describing the top strengths this young person possesses.

How will knowledge of their talents impact your interaction with this youth? What would this information encourage you to ask? Would knowing their strengths help you build a connection?

What is CliftonStrengths?

In a Clifton Strengths Analysis, users go through dozens of paired statements, choosing items that best describe them. The online assessment uses 50 years of research to narrow 34 areas of talent down to a person's top 5 strengths.

Strengths are sorted into four categories: strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing, and executing. Specific talents fall under each umbrella. For example, input and ideation fall under strategic thinking, adaptability and positivity are part of relationship building, communication and self-assurance reflect an ability to influence, while focus and responsibility are considered executing.

According to Gallup, this "personalized and uncannily accurate" inventory provides "insight on what we need in order to give our best." By identifying areas where people think easily and quickly, CliftonStrengths tells us what we enjoy doing and where we can do well. Gallup asserts that we can increase fulfillment and self-awareness by focusing on our top 5 themes.

You can find more information about each theme by clicking here.

CliftonStrengths in a JHB Setting

CliftonStrengths is a tool for Juvenile Hearing Board members to better understand and support the youth they serve. But the logistics of implementing it in a JHB setting may seem challenging. The Providence JHB can be an example of how to do this, as their board prepares to implement CliftonStrengths in the near future (with the help of a partnership between RICJ and InnateFive).

First, Claudia Cardozo, Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, will provide approximately seven hours of formal training to Providence's JHB Coordinator, who will administer the assessment to youth and help board members interpret results. Training includes a one-on-one session, a four hour sit-down training to walk through the process and learn to administer the test, and ongoing support for the first six months after formal training is complete.

Claudia teaches test administrators how to have empowering conversations with youth, how to explain assessment results, and how to use appropriate language when discussing young people's strengths. Claudia also provides trainees with resources to inform youth about what makes them special, along with their needs in order to thrive.

JHB personnel should expect youth to need about 40-45 minutes to complete the assessment. It can be administered at any time before a youth's hearing. They provide the youth with a personalized Strengths Insight Guide, which lists the youth's top five strengths and a description as to "what makes them stand out." Trained members walk youth through the report and share the results with board members to utilize during the hearing.

What are the benefits?

Everyone has unique talents and abilities. Many youth may not have people in their lives who see and emphasize their strengths. But if youth understand their talents and hear adults acknowledge and reinforce them (first by the assessment administrator and then from board members during the hearing), they will start to believe in their strengths and own them.

The CliftonStrengths assessment can also help JHB members develop sanctions that honor what energizes the youth. For example, youth with relationship building skills such as empathy or connectedness might learn more from a sanction that involves interacting with people, as opposed to writing an apology letter or doing independent research.

Looking at the bigger picture, CliftonStrengths can provide families of youth with a new understanding of their child. The results can be educational and eye-opening, and have a positive impact on the parent-child or guardian-child relationship.


After reading about CliftonStrengths, take your mind back to the opening scenario. You just arrived for a JHB hearing and are handed a youth's police report, along with their strengths profile. Now, ask yourself again: How would knowing a young person's strengths impact your interaction with the youth? What would this information encourage you to ask?

Is offering a strengths-based assessment possible for your board?

Special thanks to Claudia Cardozo from InnateFive for providing insight and expertise on the CliftonStrengths assessment and its impact.

To read the rest of the Gallup article referenced in this blog post, click here.

Want to learn more about CliftonStrengths and training for administration of the assessment? Contact Toby Ayers, Executive Director of RICJ, at

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