Davidson County’s Juvenile Court (DCJC) is in the midst of an exciting transformation, as they incorporate best practices into all aspects of their court system and include staff at every level.
Following the passage of Tennessee’s Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, DCJC leaders shifted their focus to implementing evidence-based practices proven to reduce recidivism. They knew they would need certain components to succeed: collaboration (especially interagency), a shared message across the court for every interaction with young people and their families, and a plan for sustainability.
As a part of the initial effort, DCJC’s Judge Sheila Calloway and Court Administrator Kathy Sinback knew staff would benefit from hands-on tools to put knowledge into practice. With that in mind, they called upon CJI, an organization already providing juvenile justice technical assistance to Tennessee through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Juvenile Justice System Improvement initiative. They specifically requested that CJI train the entire probation unit on the Principles of Effective Intervention and Cognitive Interaction Skills. Additionally, DCJC chose eight staff, including the chief of probation, to become certified trainers. The trained staff began seamlessly weaving their new skills and knowledge into their work and DCJC now offers these trainings as part of their onboarding process and as needed.
“When we understand the importance of specifying the right treatment and the right resources for the ‘right’ children, we can be of greater service to the entire community,” said Judge Calloway. “In the past, we sometimes over-serviced youth and we unknowingly put them at a greater risk to return to the system. Now, we can maximize our impact by concentrating efforts on the young people who truly need us and by intervening in ways that help strengthen families and our communities.”
The training helped fill a gap for DCJC staff from prior trainings and discussions, especially by providing an effective way to interact with youth, families, colleagues, and providers in a meaningful way. DCJC colleagues learned skills and a framework for talking about issues with each other—ideally, they can now talk about cases more quickly and concisely—and the shared knowledge now holds everyone more accountable as they work with young people moving through the system. Everyday interactions will now decrease the risk of young people on their caseloads getting involved in crime, while also building a better sense of partnership with all staff.