Projects: Sedgwick County Family Engagement Project

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is partnering with the Sedgwick County Department of Corrections (DOC) to create a county-wide model for engaging families who are involved with the juvenile justice system. The model will support the DOC’s goal of increasing family involvement in the service of better outcomes for the youth in their system and will help create family engagement standards for counties across the country.

Vera’s family engagement work focuses on three phases: assess, reform, and evaluate. In Sedgwick County, Vera will assess the DOC’s efforts to involve families by conducting surveys of youth, families, and staff and reviewing all of the current policies and practices. This process will help the county prioritize current family-focused work and identify opportunities for improvement.

The assessment report will include a series of recommendations and an action plan to help the county meet their goals. Vera will also train DJJ staff on family-mapping tools and the Juvenile Relational Inquiry Tool—designed to help staff put their values regarding family engagement into action. Vera staff will coach the DOC team throughout the process of reform—pairing expertise on national best practices with on-the-ground support. As the project comes to a close, and the reforms begin to take root, Vera will work with the county to evaluate progress and develop a strategic plan for long-term sustainability.

Why Engage Families

Research has shown that family support helps improve outcomes for youth involved in the justice system. However, the culture in many juvenile justice systems continues to focus on punishment, personal accountability, and steering young people away from people they knew prior to incarceration. Such an approach misses the mark by devaluing one of the most obvious sources of support for young people: their families.  

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Featured Expert

Research Director, Center on Youth Justice