February 5, 2014

Juvenile facility pushes family involvement

Director: Visits with parents improve youths' behavior

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — Logansport Correctional Juvenile Facility officials recently increased visitation hours and implemented focused programs in a push to increase family engagement for incarcerated youth.

The increased family engagement push came from collaboration between Performance-based Standards (PbS) and the Family Justice Program of the Vera Institute of Justice to develop the Family-Youth Initiative. Last year, the Family Justice Program developed family engagement standards for the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute.

In response to the implementation of the new standards, many facilities increased rates of visitation, including the Logansport juvenile facility.

Mark Harmon, program director and public information officer at the facility, said staff found that for whatever reason — finances, schedule, time constraints and work — some family members weren’t making it to visit students in the facility, so staff extended the facility’s regular visitation hours a month ago.

If a family member isn’t available to meeting during one of the regular time frames, faculty will set up a time outside of visitation hours for the family and student to see each other. Those needing to set up a visit can contact the student’s counselor, Harmon said.

One family member has already taken advantage of the flexibility of visitation hours and called to schedule a visit, Harmon said. There has also been an increase in the numbers of visitors because of extended hours.

Although the changes have only been in place for one month, the results have proven to open a door of communication and improve behavior, Harmon said.

“I’m very encouraged by the involvement I’ve seen,” Harmon said.

The increase in family engagement doesn’t stop at visitation hours. There will be five open houses where parents or legal guardians can visit and see the unit with their child. The five open houses will take place at two general population units, the Clean Lifestyle is Freedom Forever (CLIFF) unit, the Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) unit and the Youth Transition Reentry Independent Living (YTRI) unit.

Parents are also able to attend chapel with their children.

Families are being contacted more and more on the progress of programs at the facility.

Parents are being included by treatment teams that meet with students in the facility every two weeks. Treatment teams are made up of a counselor and representatives from the education and custody department. Some teams also have a mental health professional. The treatment teams call parents during the meeting, or if parents are unable to take a call the team will send emails about the student’s progress.

Communicating openly through email and phone calls provides education and allows everyone to be “on the same page,” Harmon said.

“It’s helpful for everyone,” Harmon said. “It makes students look at what they’re doing and challenges them to be better.”

Facility staff now call parents to discuss progress and behavior issues. Staff from the custody and recreation departments might reach out to parents and ask for advice to deescalate a situation or discuss the student.

The family engagement also makes it easier for families to reconnect, Harmon said.

“There have been hard feelings between family members and students and by getting them involved, we can bridge that gap,” Harmon said.

The increased family engagement is causing better behavior and progress in education, Harmon added. He called it a “win-win” for everyone involved.

“When parents are involved, students excel and seemed to be more motivated to change and excited to go home,” Harmon said.

Visitation hours for the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility are available seven days a week. Visitation at the Logansport Treatment Unit is from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Visitation hours at the Logansport Intake Unit are 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday.