Strengthening family and community connections, broadly defined to include the diverse support young people have outside of blood relations, is the organizing principle of DJJ’s reform efforts. Vera is supporting these efforts through training, technical assistance, and collaborative research. Vera is surveying staff, families, and incarcerated youth and will work with youth to analyze findings and draft recommendations for change. Vera will also train DJJ staff on the Juvenile Relational Inquiry Tool—designed to help staff put their values regarding family engagement into action.

Vera is further:

  • Developing a framework across the agency to create sustainable partnerships with families and communities—from the individual case level to the policy and administrative level, including plans for a youth’s transition home;  
  • Working with incarcerated youth to create youth advisory councils to formally respond to DJJ reform, policies, and practices; and
  • Training all DJJ staff on family engagement tools—such as the Juvenile Relational Inquiry Tool and family mapping tools—to support the rollout of a new community model for housing youth.  

This work is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.