Clark County Juvenile Court, DJFS launch new program to help youth involved in dual systems

Clark County Department of Jobs and Family Services Director Virginia Martycz and Clark County Juvenile Court Judge Katrine Lancaster announced the new "Dually Involved Youth" Program on Thursday. Riley Newton/Staff

The Clark County Juvenile Court and Department of Jobs and Family Services have partnered together to launch a new program designed to address the needs of critically at-risk children who are involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

In the new ‘Dually Involved Youth’ program, children who enter the juvenile justice system with new charges (or currently have an open case) or become involved with the child welfare system will meet with a community panel to discuss the resources available to them and their families.

Resources could be educational, mental health-related or other social services. They will be made available through collaboration with several other county programs including Clark County Family and Children First Council, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office, the Clark County Public Defender’s Office, the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties, the Springfield City School District and the Clark County Educational Service Center.

“Our goal with this is to be able to look at our processes, challenge some of our assumptions and bring our community partners in now more than ever to determine which approaches work best for each family because what we really want to do is provide a service that is going to be meaningful and affect the families to help make them more stable," Clark County DJFS Director Virginia Martycz said.

The juvenile court was one of two counties in the state awarded a technical assistance grant by the Ohio Supreme Court in July 2019. Money from the grant went directly to the Robert F. Kennedy Resource Center for Justice, who assisted the court with the development of the program.

Clark County Juvenile Court Judge Katrine Lancaster said although the grant did not provide the county with any new program dollars, it did give them a “tremendous opportunity for guidance,” in developing the program.

“We are grateful for the opportunity provided by the Ohio Supreme Court and the collaboration of our many community partners to develop and initiative for this critically at-risk group of youth,” Lancaster said.

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In 2019, 77% of Clark County youth charged in the juvenile system had some involvement in the child welfare system in their lifetime, Lancaster said, meaning the juvenile system and DJFS spent more resources on this population than youth involved with one system.

“At juvenile court, it is frustratingly difficult to present rehabilitation programs for youth who lack family stability,” Lancaster said. “At (DJFS), it’s equally frustrating to find placement for youth in their teen years.”

In the new program, evidence-based assessments will be used to identify the areas of need of the child, said Gil-Lana Mitchell, who does juvenile intake for the court and will serve as the liaison between organizations for the program.

“We can then develop a plan for the youth and family and help them achieve their goals and address their existing barriers. We are very excited for this opportunity to pull together our efforts to best serve the youth and families in this community," Mitchell said. “What we all want is for the children and families of Clark County to know is that someone is willing to work with them to help make positive changes.”

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