Licensed social work/mental health professionals within Fairfield County Juvenile Court’s Behavioral Health (BH) team provide mental health and substance abuse assessments for juveniles referred from Court Case Managers and Specialists or by the Judge/Magistrates.
If through their interview with the youth and parent(s) it is determined that further counseling or treatment is needed, the team will make a referral for the youth to the most appropriate community resource or provide short-term in-house counseling. The BH team also is available for immediate lethality screening and referral when a youth is at risk for suicide or is a threat to others. As part of the 2022 reorganization, a Behavioral Health Specialist focused on family engagement was added to the BH team to engage, education, advocate for, and support parents/caregivers who have youth in Juvenile Court programming; as well as to facilitate meetings to support family voice and choice.
The BH team also provides case consultation services to all Court staff.
The Fairfield County Juvenile Court Resource Center (RC) was formed as part of the 2022 reorganization. The RC is a combination of previously existing interventions and programs joined under one umbrella to better serve youth and families, law enforcement, and other community partners. The RC is in Connexion West, a Lancaster community center focused on helping individuals and families.
Programs and services under the RC umbrella are Assessment Services—including Community Request for Services and On-Call Services (described on page 7), Reporting Services, and Supportive Services—consisting of Mentoring, Community Service, Workforce Development, and the Youth Subsidized Employment Program.
The purpose of the RC is multifaceted:
- To utilize restorative justice system best practices to provide high-risk, Court-involved youth a safe and structured environment in which to develop skills, connect to community resources, and establish positive relationships to improve daily living and reduce further involvement in the juvenile justice system;
- These skills, as outlined in the Fairfield County Juvenile Court Guiding Principles include:
- Moral Reasoning,
- Workforce Development, and
- Independent Living.
- To promote public safety through around-the-clock availability to local law enforcement for assistance with emergent needs related to juveniles displaying unruly or delinquent behaviors;
- To utilize trauma-informed practices to promote public and youth safety by encouraging local school districts, law enforcement, other community partners, and affected families to refer juveniles displaying unruly or delinquent behaviors to the RC for skills-development and/or other resources for the youths’ personal development and success;
- To assess youth for underlying issues that contribute to their concerning behaviors and to intervene with development of safety plans and provision of appropriate services and referrals to behavioral health and other community partners;
- To assist youth existing detention with their transition back into the community; and
- To provide mentoring services and opportunities for positive community engagement while modeling appropriate social interaction and promoting resiliency.
Reporting Services (formerly known as the Reporting Center) utilizes restorative justice system best practices to provide high-risk, Court-involved youth a safe and structured environment in which to develop skills, connect to community resources, and establish positive relationships. Primary goals are to improve daily living and to reduce further involvement in the juvenile justice system. Programming is based on cognitive behavioral change and structure.
Originally funded through the Ohio Department of Youth Services, Reporting Services provides intensive supervision, as well as supportive services that address identified needs of the juveniles who are referred.
Youth ages 12 through 18 are referred by Court Services and the Judge/Magistrates and less frequently by Diversion Services. Eligible youth may be ordered pre-adjudication, by the Court at adjudication, or as a condition of probation. Eligible youth include those who are not a danger to themselves or others or to the property of others. In addition, a youth who is a flight risk is not eligible for placement with Reporting Services.
Programming is scheduled for three hours after school Monday through Thursday during the academic year and for 3.5 hours in the afternoon during the summer. The daytime summer schedule allows youth greater opportunity to participate in community service projects and provides supervision earlier in the day when the youth may otherwise be home alone. Transportation is provided to and from the Resource Center, which houses Reporting Services. During transportation time, staff engage in meaningful conversation with the youth. A standard referral is for 25 days. Upon program completion, youth may return for a 10-day referral to continue their skill-building and positive relationship development and receive additional supervision.
At times, Reporting Services is used when youth on probation need temporary supervision when parent(s) are unable to provide it. This service may occur outside of standard program hours if needed to best serve the youth and family.
Because the Court was unable to meet with youth in person during the COVID pandemic, Reporting Services team members developed a virtual program to enable the Court to continue to provide support to individual youth and families through a creative use of technology and increased staff engagement. Although not in use in 2022, provision of virtual Reporting Services is possible should the need arise.
Mentoring provides adjudicated, at-risk youth opportunities to work one-on-one with a screened and trained adult mentor whose support and camaraderie will contribute to the development of positive skills in all areas. Studies show that more than 76% of at-risk young adults with a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college, versus 56% of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. Three types of mentoring are available through the Court’s Mentoring program: one-on-one, through which a pre-screened and trained adult is paired with a Court-involved youth; group mentoring, which involves a weekly meeting with a mentor group facilitator who coordinates and leads a variety of pro-social activities; and team mentoring, involving two or more mentors assigned to one or more youth. An example of team mentoring is a husband and wife mentoring one or more youth.
Fairfield County Juvenile Court’s Mentor Program
(video by Judge Terre L. Vandervoort)
The Power of ONE Caring Adult
(a brief video testimony by Josh Shipp)
93 Ways to Connect with Teens
(a PDF document from by Josh Shipp)
Court-appointed youth are provided the opportunity to participate in community service work. Youth assigned to Community Service are provided the opportunity to regain community trust, pay restitution, and fulfill obligations while developing new skills and building quality relationships with adult mentors. Youth are referred to Community Service by the Judge/Magistrate or Court Case Managers and Specialists. Youth may work off assigned hours under the supervision of the Supportive Services Specialist Lead at several work sites throughout Fairfield County. Sites have included Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lancaster and Pickerington, food pantries, Maywood Mission, Foundation Dinners, local churches, highway cleanup sites, and many more.
Workforce Development Program
In keeping with the principles of restorative justice, goals of the Workforce Development (WFD) Program are to prepare Court-involved youth for the workforce and to increase their ability to obtain and retain employment. WFD uses this five-step approach to achieve the goals.
- Job Readiness Assistance
- Individual Job Search
- Job Placement
- Job Retention
The WFD Coordinator meets with youth and parent(s) to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the level of assistance needed and to identify barriers and challenges. Youth attend Job Readiness workshops that provide training in interviewing, time management, work habits/conduct, attendance, communication, conflict management, positive relationships with supervisors/ coworkers, good hygiene, and appropriate work attire. The Coordinator meets with the youth to help create resumes, explain job postings and the value of networking, complete online job applications and employment paperwork, review employer expectations, determine work schedules, arrange transportation, balance school and work, and communicate with supervisors.
Workplace issues and problems are identified early and addressed as they occur to avoid resignation or firing. Support services are identified and accessed to help each young person maintain employment. School attendance and grades are reviewed on a regular basis.
Subsidized Youth Employment Program (SYEP)
The Subsidized Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides subsidized wages to at-risk youth while giving employers incentives to provide participants with 120 hours of quality on-the-job training. Youth can be placed with public, private, or non-profit employers. SYEP participants are youth ages 15 to 18 who have multiple barriers that have limited their employability.
The goal or SYEP is to help youth develop the necessary skills and work ethic to transition into unsubsidized employment at the conclusion of the program.
Participants attend Job Readiness workshops to prepare for their placement. Fairfield County Juvenile Court has partnered with TeenWorks, Inc. since the program’s inception in 2018 to operate the SYEP program. TeenWorks provides administrative oversight. Funding comes from the Fairfield County Board of Commissioners, Columbus Foundation, Fairfield County Foundation, and United Way of Fairfield County.
The Workforce Development Coordinator maintains consistent contact with employers and youth to monitor and evaluate progress and address any issues, as needed. She ensures participants are equipped to be successful on the job, and she provides support services.