The 20th Judicial District Juvenile Division will host a series of workshops for local juvenile probation officers and other related agencies who extend services to court-involved youth.

The series of upcoming workshops utilizes the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice” (RJJ) curriculum for Circuit Judge Troy Braswell Jr.’s staff within the 20th Judicial District — Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties — as well as related agencies, law enforcement and other providers that work with court-involved youth.

In conjunction with juvenile justice reform in Arkansas, Judge Braswell has advocated for statewide improvement and encouraged other circuit courts to adopt policies that offer more opportunities for the youth and families whom have contact with the court system.

To kick off this opportunity for those involved with juvenile justice in central Arkansas, Administrative Office of the Courts Juvenile Justice Specialist Faye Shepherd and 20th Judicial District Chief of Staff Leeanna Brown will co-present Thursday the first module alongside Sonja Okun.

Okun has two decades of experience developing and leading successful positive youth development intervention programs for justice system-involved youth and she presently consults for the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the “Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice” project, and efforts to develop community alternatives to incarceration for youth facing serious charges.

RJJ workshops utilize a dynamic and rigorous curriculum that grounds participants in the history, evolution, research, lessons and organizing principles for PYD and Cross Systems work — while also providing them with meaningful opportunities to apply theoretical learning through project challenges, fieldwork and opportunities to learn firsthand from experts (including youth themselves). Unlike more general PYD trainings, RJJ was specifically developed by and for professionals working in and advancing system changes in the juvenile justice arena. “Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice” six course modules include:

An Introduction to Positive Youth Development Fundamentals focuses on developing the basic understanding of positive youth development principles as well as an overview of the critical importance of PYD in today’s working youth. The emphasis will be on how to enable attendees to understand and integrate the concepts of PYD and adolescent brain development into daily practice and shift perceptions around youth as assets. Utilizing a Cross-System Approach is where participants will begin looking at the essential nature of partnership development and collaboration and its role in fostering cross-system work between and across agencies, departmental units and other juvenile justice service professionals. During the Addressing Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System course, participants examine through discussions and activities the nature and extent of implicit bias and racial and ethnic disparities as they exist in the juvenile justice system. Participants will gain a better understanding of how to be aware and responsive to these issues and develop strategies to address them. Participants will gain a better understanding of what youth voice is and how it can be utilized in the juvenile justice environment during Utilizing Youth Voice with a PYD Mindset/Cross-System Approach workshop. Fostering Positive Family Relationships in the Juvenile Justice System focuses on establishing positive, authentic and trusting relationships with the parents and families of justice-involved youth. This ability is essential to helping youth participate in and transition successfully from placements and/or probation into a positive community life. There is not a one-size-fits-all prescription; however, professionals can help lay a solid foundation for strengthening family and community ties that recognizes and promotes their role in the development of youth plans. In the final session, Reflections & Recommendations, participants will present the impact of this training on their mindsets and practice, giving a specific focus on change in their work and organization. Participants will present specific recommendations to agency/system leadership, who will attend, listen and respond.

The first presentation will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in Rooms 111 and 113 of the Brwer-Hegeman Center on the University of Central Arkansas campus. To attend, call Brown at 501-499-1487.