Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tarrant specialty court focused on family violence by youth on 'nonintimate' relatives

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an article ("Tarrant County court program helps youth in trouble with the law," Nov. 27) describing a special family violence court called:
Youth Offender Diversion Alternative, or YODA, [which] is aimed at addressing the rise in Tarrant County of family violence cases involving people ages 17 to 25 and nonintimate relatives such as mothers, fathers or siblings.

A combined effort of Judge Jamie Cummings' court in Tarrant County and the University of Texas at Arlington's Center for Clinical Social Work, it is funded by a $92,000 grant from the Amon G. Carter Foundation.
That's the first time I've heard of the specialty court concept aimed at this particular offender cohort. Of defendants assigned to the court,
Most have clean records but have other problems, such as with school, work or family relationships.
Nearly two-thirds are male, and most of their assaults involved either their mother (43 percent) or sister (17 percent). Of the young women assigned to the program, most involved assaults on a sister (25 percent) or their father's partner, such as a stepmother or girlfriend (19 percent).

The program accepts people up to age 25, but more than two-thirds are 17 to 19. If they complete the program, the charge will be erased from their record as if it never happened.
So far, their aggregate outcomes appear positive, though the programs barely been operating more than half a year so far:
Since the program began in March, 54 participants have been diverted into the program, including eight who signed on last week. Nine have been removed from the program, largely for poor attendance in one-on-one counseling.

A preliminary evaluation of the program after about six months shows that participants who completed the program decreased their aggression and abuse of alcohol and drugs, and increased mental health, resilience, hope and their ability to find solutions to their problems. None of the 20 people who completed the program have committed another offense.
The program was begun with outside grant funding:
YODA is part of the Innovative Community Academic Partnership, or iCap, which is funded by grants from the Carter Foundation.

"It occurred to me that we needed to find a different way to address the violence in the community," said Sheila B. Johnson, a director of the Carter Foundation and granddaughter of Amon G. Carter. "They really were basically OK kids but they didn't have a chance."

The program is funded through December, and tentative funding has been lined up to extend the program through 2012.


A Texas PO said...

Kids often imitate what they see at home, and many times the kids who end up in trouble don't have the positive role models or the necessary family support to help them focus their energy and frustration towards porductive outlets. This sounds like a great program and I wish the participants and the court workers/officers the best of luck.

Debby said...

vThere are some really great folks here in Tarrant County trying to make a difference. This program is one of the good ones. We also have a grant to assist guys coming right out of prison get jobs through subsidized employment,and another for folks getting out of state jail. RIO wasn't much but with it gone, we had very little left. We're hoping these 2 grants can provide some health to those newly released citizens of Tarrant County!