The Background. USDOE granted RICJ funding for three urban Juvenile Hearing Boards (JHBs) to have case management services for three years! We hope this pilot program will demonstrate the benefits of case management to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for JHB youth and families, and we hope to secure future funding. Given that youth of color are more likely and disproportionately arrested compared to white youth, we hope these efforts can increase racial equity by mitigating the negative outcomes of youth arrests.
JHBs have varying levels of support. Some have no budget; some have a small amount of municipal funds. Such funds are typically used for youth assignments with a cost or fee, or part-time employment of a JHB coordinator. JHB coordinators are generally responsible for scheduling, records, contacting youth and families, and connecting them to services and resources. Also, prior to the COVID pandemic, DCYF provided funding for regional FCCP (Family Care Community Partnership) agencies to send clinical specialists to JHB hearings to provide warm referrals onsite for youth and families. Some JHBs continue to have this clinical support, while others do not. In any case, JHBs consistently agree that having someone responsible for coordination, referrals and support is immensely helpful for the board to provide youth with a successful community-based diversion experience.
A JHB case manager is a distinct new role responsible for:
Assisting JHBs and local law enforcement with scheduling and coordination tasks.
Advising the JHB on positive youth/family development and mental/behavioral health to inform restorative assignments for youth.
Connecting youth and families with local opportunities to complete their assignments.
Checking in with youth and families during the process and following up afterwards.
RICJ is partnered in this project with Pawtucket and Central Falls JHBs and another JHB to be determined. Our partner Tides Family Services provides the JHB case manager with case supervision and ongoing professional development in best practices.
Introducing Jeiza Munoz! Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Central Falls, and a current Pawtucket resident, Jeiza earned her bachelor's degree from Roger Williams University after studying psychology. Read the brief interview below to learn about Jeiza, the new JHB case manager!
Who are you and how would you describe yourself to others?
Answer: I'm Jeiza, 34 years old and a mother of two. I'm very driven to help others and that's a big part of me, helping people reach their goals. I think that's kind of what makes me, me.
Why did you decide to take on the JHB case manager role?
Answer: For a long time, I've always said I've wanted to work with youth but never had the opportunity. I was doing more family-based work; supporting adults with parenting was the big focus of my career. So I thought this could be a great opportunity to work with youth directly, but also give back to the community... I grew up in Central Falls, it holds a special place in my heart... That's a big part of who I am, too... I want to be able to give back to that community and to Pawtucket because I reside there, and I feel like it's all connected.
What are your goals and what are you looking forward to in your new role?
Answer: I'm definitely looking to learn a lot more related to juvenile justice and restorative justice. I definitely see the importance. I hope to really learn as much as possible, and to grow professionally and as an individual. And to help the [case management] project take off, because I know it's new so I hope to help grow it because it's necessary.
How would you describe your approach to juvenile justice?
Answer: I'm very big on mental health. That's my background. I understand that trauma is a big factor in a lot of this. So I'm just approaching it like, let's figure out what has happened to lead to this point and how do we make sure it [committing an offense] doesn't happen again? How do we help you so you have other options? The youth have so much ahead. This shouldn't define who they are, because it's not who they are.
What is your message to the members of the JHB?
Answer: I think overall, I'm here. I'm joining the team, and I'm hoping to add value and support not only to youth and families, but to them, the members themselves... I know they're volunteering and I think that's so commendable. I hope they see me as someone they can turn to, and also I hope to learn from them. I really look forward to having a collaborative approach and work together to make sure the JHB process works as it should.
Thank you and welcome to the RICJ juvenile justice team, Jeiza! This is an exciting direction for JHBs. While case managers will primarily be working with Central Falls and Pawtucket, they will be a new resource at RICJ that all JHBs can draw upon for support to help keep youth away from the courts and within their communities.