Topics: Children, Youth, and Family

It Takes a Village: Diversion Resources for Police and Families
Police frequently encounter youth running away from home, violating curfew, skipping school, and chronically disobeying adults—misbehavior that can often stem from family conflict and that does not require justice involvement. When alternatives are not available, however, these behaviors can lead...
A New Role for Technology: Video Visitation in Prison
Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating their reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas...
Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Families: A Charge for Juvenile Justice Agencies
Family involvement is essential for positive youth outcomes, especially for those youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Family visits, for example, can improve youth behavior during incarceration and are associated with better school performance. In recognition of these facts, Vera...
Language Access Resources for Working with Unaccompanied Children
A significant number of children who enter Office of Refugee Resettlement custody do not speak English. Communicating with these children can be challenging for attorneys and other service providers. To respond to this need, Vera’s Unaccompanied Children Legal Services Program has produced three...
Public Housing for People with Criminal Histories - Fact Sheet
Stable housing is essential to supporting a formerly incarcerated person’s successful return to his or her community. Until recently, however, most public housing authorities throughout the country have prevented formerly incarcerated people from formally returning to their homes or living with...


A New Role for Technology: The Impact of Video Visitation on Corrections Staff, Inmates, and their Families

This study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, will explore whether providing incarcerated people with access to video visitation improves the nature and frequency of prisoners’ contact with their families and other people who support them. It will also explore if these contacts improve their compliance with custodial rules and outcomes after their release from prison.

Child Welfare Case Processing in New York City Family Courts

The Vera Institute of Justice is partnering with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA), the New York City Family Court, and Casey Family Programs to conduct an operational review of the abuse and neglect case process flow in the Queens and Bronx family courts. Vera is combining data analyses and findings from interviews and observations to describe how the abuse and neglect cases are processed, identify causes of delay, and develop specific actions that the court and agencies can take to accelerate permanent living arrangements for children.

Common Justice

Common Justice develops and advances solutions to violent crime that transform the lives of victims and foster racial equity without relying on incarceration. Locally, we operate the first alternative-to-incarceration and victim service program in the United States that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts. Nationally, we leverage the lessons from our direct service to transform the justice system through partnerships, advocacy, and elevating the experience and power of those most impacted. Rigorous and hopeful, we build practical strategies to hold people accountable for harm, break cycles of violence, and secure safety, healing and justice for survivors and their communities.

Diversion Resources for Police and Families

Many communities are frustrated with how to respond to youth “acting out”—running away from home, skipping school, violating curfew, or disobeying adults—as well as how to respond to young people getting arrested for more serious actions like fighting and other events stemming from family conflict. This project describes new and exciting models for juvenile diversion across the country, highlighting concrete examples, their potential benefit, and lessons stakeholders involved in development and implementation have learned. The goal is to inspire additional communities to explore, understand, and develop these approaches and keep young people who engage in minor misbehavior out of the juvenile justice system.

Educational Neglect

In half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia, a parent who does not ensure that his or her child attends school regularly can be charged with educational neglect and referred to child protective services. Most of these cases in New York State involve teenagers, even though experts and current research agree that the child protective system is not well equipped to address teenage absenteeism. Vera is working with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to study and improve the government’s response to these cases, with support from Casey Family Programs.

Family Partnership for Juvenile Justice Reform

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ), in partnership with Justice for Families (J4F) and with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is working with Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) to focus the department’s policies and programming on the needs and concerns of youth’s families. 

Housing and Employment Opportunities within the Housing Authority of New Orleans

The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) strives to offer meaningful access to public housing and employment opportunities for people with criminal records and to keep communities safe and vibrant. Vera is providing research and policy guidance to HANO to inform screening processes that will allow for individualized assessments of the suitability of people with criminal convictions for HANO-assisted housing and employment in the city of New Orleans. This approach aims to reduce long-term negative consequences of criminal convictions while fostering fair and safe communities.

Illinois Enhanced Aftercare Project

With funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is partnering with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) to improve how young people fare after returning from placement with the state.

Immigrant Youth Participatory Action Research

In 2013, Vera and Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice embarked on a community-based research project to better understand the needs and experiences of unaccompanied immigrant youth living in New York City. With funding from Leon Lowenstein Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the Viola W. Bernard Foundation, researchers focused on issues youth often encounter, such as child welfare, immigration, education, mental and physical health care, employment, and access to justice. These findings aim to better inform local government policies and community services.

Impact Evaluation of the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience Program at Rikers Island

In 2012, the City of New York launched the nation’s first social impact bond—an innovative form of pay-for-success contracting that leverages private funding to finance public services—to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) program, a large-scale initiative serving 16- to 18- year old youth detained in New York City’s Rikers Island jail.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project

The Vera-administered New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP, which has received $4.9 million in funding from the New York City Council for the current fiscal year, provides detained indigent immigrants facing deportation at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court with free, high-quality legal representation. The project, which seeks to keep immigrants with their families and in their communities, will also serve detained New York City residents whose deportation cases are being heard in nearby New Jersey locations.

New York State Juvenile Reentry Consortium

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) will be the facilitator and technical assistance provider for the New York State Juvenile Reentry Consortium, a group of counties that will work collaboratively to improve reentry planning, coordination, and services for youth returning from a period of post-sentencing confinement in private, voluntary residential care facilities. The initiative is funded by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

NYC-based Research Projects

Our work in New York City spans across Vera’s centers and programs. What these projects have in common is close collaboration with our partners, data and evidence-driven approaches, and recommendations that seek to improve the systems that New Yorkers rely on for public safety, justice, and human services. Although these projects take place in the unique context of New York City, they all bear important implications and lessons for jurisdictions across the country.

NYCHA Family Reentry Pilot: Reuniting Families in New York City Public Housing

The Vera Institute’s Family Justice Program (Vera) is partnering with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and multiple nonprofit reentry service providers to develop, implement, and study a two-year pilot program that reunites 150 eligible formerly incarcerated individuals with their families in public housing while also providing them with case management services. This project is supported with funding from the Tiger Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and DHS.

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.

Status Offense System Reform Initiative

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice is partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to provide tailored, data-driven, and best-practice-informed training and technical assistance that will help jurisdictions improve their responses to the needs of youth engaged in status offenses—behaviors, such as running away or skipping school, which are prohibited under law only because of an person’s status as a minor. This project is complemented by additional funding from the MacArthur Foundation to support Vera’s Status Offense Reform Center (SORC).

Substance Use and Mental Health

Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program uses applied research to help government and community-based organizations create services and policies designed to help people who use substances or have psychiatric disorders avoid criminal justice involvement and receive the services they need to achieve stable community living. Program staff collect quantitative and qualitative data, evaluate existing programs, and review government data to understand the experiences of these populations, the circumstances that lead to their arrest, and the policies that prolong their involvement in the criminal justice system.

The Impact of Family Involvement: What Visitation Can Mean for Juvenile Justice Outcomes

Vera’s Family Justice Program is partnering with the Indiana Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services (DYS) to study the importance of family visitation for incarcerated youth and to provide the field with lessons about the challenges and benefits of implementing enhanced visitation policies that expand opportunities for family contact.

Unaccompanied Children Program

The Unaccompanied Children Program coordinates a national effort to increase pro bono legal representation for immigrant children in removal (deportation) proceedings without a parent or legal guardian. These children may be fleeing poverty, war, or other dangerous circumstances on their own, or they may have lost contact with an adult along the way. They are detained in federal custody in shelters or detention centers contracted by the Division of Children’s Services (DCS, formerly DUCS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Understanding and Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children with Disabilities

In March of 2012, Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety partnered with the Ms. Foundation for Women to ensure that existing efforts to address sexual abuse of children are inclusive of children with disabilities. They also sought to increase the number and breadth of efforts that are specifically addressing sexual abuse of children with disabilities.

Young Adults in Jail

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ), in partnership with the New York City Department of Corrections (DOC) and with funding from the National Institute of Justice, is conducting an evaluation of a new approach to working with 18 to 21-year-olds on Rikers Island. The project will study the effect of putting young adults in jail in separate housing, with bans on punitive segregation, programming tailored to young adult development, and transition planning.

Youth Futures: Workforce Development and Educational Support to System-Involved Youth

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) is coordinating Youth Futures, a multi-site program aimed at improving the long-term employment prospects of at-risk and justice-involved youth living in, or returning to, high-crime, high-poverty communities in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and through partnerships with the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, and the Youth Empowerment Project, Youth Futures prepares program participants for success in the labor market by providing comprehensive, individualized case management services linked to workforce development and educational interventions, supports, and training programs.

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15-year-old J.B. is involved in a minor scuffle at a park. Instead of arresting him, police call a local crisis response program to address the behavior. J.B. receives counseling and is enrolled in an action plan to improve his grades, joins an ROTC...
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Justice for Families (J4F) is a national alliance of local organizations committed to ending the “youth incarceration epidemic.” It was founded and is run by parents and families who have experienced the juvenile justice system with their children....
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Last week, Vera, in partnership with the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, hosted a lively discussion about the importance of family engagement for youth involved in the juvenile justice system and launched a new report,...
Krista Larson
Director, Center on Youth Justice
Anne Marie Mulcahy
Director of the Unaccompanied Children Program, Center on Immigration and Justice
Danielle Sered
Director, Common Justice
Susan Shah
Chief of Staff
Margaret diZerega
Director, Family Justice Program
Ryan Shanahan
Research Director, Center on Youth Justice
Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
Project Director, Center on Youth Justice
Nicholas Turner
President and Director

About this Topic

Vera works to promote the well-being and safety of children and youth by making the government systems they are involved in more equitable and humane in policy and practice.