What are some emerging findings regarding successful transition?
Page 6: Emerging Findings
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funded three model demonstration projects to research strategies for reducing recidivism and promoting the successful reentry of students with disabilities from juvenile correctional facilities into education, employment, and community programs. Each model demonstration project is unique, yet they all include the research-based practices presented earlier:
Create a transition team
Establish quick records transfer
Create a transition plan
Utilize evidence-based practices
Monitor the transition process
Although data collection and analysis remain underway, researchers have already noted some interesting findings regarding successful transition components. Listen as Heather Griller Clark and Jean Echternacht discuss the importance that the student have a strong connection and contact with a caring adult. Next, listen as Leslie LaCroix, a transition specialist, discusses how she builds rapport and strong relationships with youth.
Heather Griller Clark, PhD Co-Principal Investigator, Project RISE, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Arizona State University
I think that the most beneficial transition component that we have found in our work in Arizona has been actually having a transition specialist on staff. Having a transition specialist specifically for those kids with disabilities has been a tremendous benefit. The person that we have in that position is very well versed in both counseling and mentoring and data-management and managing behavior and goal-setting. So that has been probably the strongest component that we’ve seen improve outcomes.
We had a previous project with a juvenile detention center. We had those transition specialists create a transition portfolio for all of the youth with disabilities that they worked with, and what we found was that there was no single component of the portfolio that had an impact on successful outcomes. It was the amount of time that the transition specialists spent with the individuals that had a positive outcome on transition success. So it wasn’t whether you had a resume or not. It wasn’t whether they got a GED or not. It was really that amount of time that that person spent talking about transition and supporting transition activities and encouraging contact after release and supporting in the community. That was really what made the impact.
Transcript: Jean K. Echternacht, EdD
In our Check-and-Connect model, which is the key component of the MAP Project, it’s really important who your hire to be a MAP mentor. And it’s really best if you have somebody that you hire that’s been in the community, maybe even experienced the same experiences that the youth have had and really know what it’s all about and sticks with them as a reliable, consistent adult. A consistent relationship most always has a positive result.
Transcript: Leslie LaCroix, MAT
I will say one thing that I hear from the kids a lot is that they feel like I don’t judge them. And I have kids tell me about their crime, and I try not to let it phase me, and I try not to show emotion about it. They will catch onto that immediately if they feel like you’re trying to be better than them, if they feel like you’re trying to be smarter than them. These are street-smart kids, and they don’t want to have any of it, so you really need to have humility and still conduct yourself like a professional but be approachable. I would say that’s what’s really important. You need to be sure that if they are having a moment of stress that they will pick up the phone and call you because they value your opinion. They don’t want to be lectured. They get that from their parole officer. They don’t need it from me. It’s important to be able to separate the child from the crime and still want what’s best for them. Really good kids can do really bad things, and it doesn’t mean that you turn your back on them or throw them away. They still deserve the help and the assistance that people can give them.
Robert White, a young adult who was incarcerated in a juvenile corrections facility for a number of years, reiterates the points made above. He describes how several caring adults contributed to his successful reentry into the community (time: 1:51).
Ms. White didn’t allow people to quit on themselves. It was times where she’d have hard conversations, like, “You’re going to do this. Even if you don’t like it, you’re going to do this. You’ve got this. Stop trying to find the easy way out.” Ms. White’s approach of, “Look, you’re going to do this. I know you can do this,” and she had a hopeful view of every individual. And she saw the best in every single individual, and she made you see the best in yourself, and she provided that support and that comfort. I can tell you numerous occasions where me and her sat down and we literally cried because it would be math that I couldn’t get, I couldn’t wrap my mind, around until we broke it down into small sections, and we did it. We got it done.
There was another teacher who challenged me every single day. And he didn’t care if I pouted. He didn’t care if I got upset. He would be there. He would be in your face. And he’s, like, “Look, you have potential. You’re not going to waste it on my watch. You’re going to do something with your life. You’re going to do this.” So he would always allow me to read. I’d be, like, “What you’re teaching isn’t interesting.” He’s, like, “Okay, if that’s what you want to learn, I will get the books for you. What tools do you need to better yourself?” And if he was able to get it, he would get it for me.
My superintendent of my last transitional facility, he’s only an hour away from me, so he will call me and be, like, “Hey, we’re having this event at the facility. Come by. We want to see you.” And he’ll often call me at those moments where I really need it. It’s weird how he knows. It’s eerie, but he’ll call and be, like, “Hey, just thinking about you. Don’t do what you’re about to do.” “What are you talking about? I’m not going to do anything stupid.” And he’s, like, “I know. But I just want to reassure you don’t do anything stupid.” I’m, like, “All right.” And he’s, like, “We’re rooting for you. We’re behind you.”
The three model demonstration projects are summarized below. For each, the key components are briefly described and a principal investigator for the project provides more details. For more information about each, click on the project name to visit its Website.
The University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration
MAP is a comprehensive, evidence-based project that supports youth with disabilities transitioning from the local juvenile corrections facility into school, employment, and community programs. It strives to create a sustainable model for youth transition by evaluating the outcomes of its intervention efforts and by establishing long-term interagency collaborations. The project integrates three existing evidence-based interventions:
Reintegration Framework Toolkit—a research-based framework designed to support interagency collaboration
Check & Connect—a research-based mentoring and student engagement intervention model focused on increasing student engagement at school and with learning as a means to improve student outcomes. Click here to learn more about Check & Connect.
Expanding the Circle: Respecting the Past, Preparing for the Future—a transition curriculum that provides strategies to support youth’s development of specific goals in preparation for the transition from high school to college and careers
The MAP Project—one of the demonstration projects from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education—is a project collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Ramsey County Corrections. The goals of the MAP Project have been to implement an evidence-based mentoring model with youth in incarceration, helping prepare them for the transition back to their community and their school and, hopefully, employment. There are a couple of components. The first one is the Check-and-Connect model, which is an evidence-based model of encouraging and promoting student engagement. The “Check” component is that there is a mentor that works one-on-one with a youth for up to two years, and with that they “Connect” with the youth at least once a week and talk to them about behavior, academics, and grades. That mentor then connects the youth to community, resources they may need be they mental health or whatever. They don’t provide those themselves, but they are that connector that helps the student and his family find and support those connections along the way.
The second is something called the re-integration toolkit, which is something that we developed here at the university with the Department of Corrections in Minnesota several years ago. And it’s a strategy of having an agency look at what specific skills or what specific components they’re providing to youth and families in incarceration. We come up with a summary of supports that youth are receiving and look for where the gaps are.
And then the third key piece of MAP was to use a curriculum that I developed here at the university called “Expanding the Circle, Respecting the Past, Preparing for the Future.” And it’s a curriculum with lots of activities around decision-making. Who am I? What am I interested in? How do I connect to those interests? Then actual career and post-secondary experiences and opportunities, going through a series of activities that are very hands-on and active-based so that a youth can get some real experience and think about their next steps after high school.
Project STAY OUT is aimed at supporting special educators at local schools in a youth’s re-entry into education, employment, and community programs in their home communities. The project focuses on developing the community’s capacity to provide collaborative services targeting the youth and ensures school personnel are trained in the requisite skills needed to provide the additional educational supports youth with disabilities may have to maintain school engagement upon exit from long-term care. These transition practices may include:
The use of a transition specialist, employed by a local school district, trained in STAY OUT practices for youth with disabilities.
Key features of services are: (a) youth-driven, strength-based services, (b) flexible educational placement options, (c) competitive employment opportunities, (d) targeted social skills training, and (e) immediate access to community-based services based on youth needs.
Building strong relationships between the school, juvenile services, and available community service agencies which include: (a) process for records sharing and transfer, (b) education of partners about each agency, and (c) regular planning meetings.
Project STAY OUT stands for “Strategies Teaching Adolescent Young Offenders with Disabilities To Use Transition Skills.” The primary focus is to increase the school’s capacity to work with young offenders with disabilities. The two primary goals would be to first build the community capacity to serve young offenders with disabilities by providing training and professional development to school personnel and how they interact with the juvenile justice system. And the second piece was to develop specific training materials to support special educators with young offenders to support their positive reentry back into their home school and to foster employment and be successful within the community. And so some key features of Project STAY OUT really focusing in on how the school personnel can work with the youth to be effective is that transition planning needs to be very youth-driven, focused around the youth’s needs, their strengths, and their deficits, but also what their interests are.
A second key feature of Project STAY OUT is focusing in on school engagement for the youth, and this may look very different because many youth returning to their home schools are very credit-deficit and may face many academic challenges. So really looking at the individual needs of the youth and helping identify what would be an appropriate school placement. It could be back to the home high school. It could be to an alternative school. It could be to adult basic learning school. It really needs to focus in on what the student’s academic and behavioral needs are and also on what the student’s educational goals are.
Another key component is to ensure that youth have access to and are supported in community based employment options. So really working with the youth to identify an employment setting that is of interest to the youth to help develop some soft employment-ready skills. Another key feature is having the school personnel really focus in on targeted social skill training, working with the youth to identify which behavioral settings are they most successful in and what are the appropriate behaviors within that setting. For example, there are specific behaviors within a school setting. What are those behaviors that need to be improved to support positive engagement within the school?
The last key feature of Project STAY OUT is really supporting school personnel to help identify and allow the youth to have immediate access to age-appropriate and culturally appropriate services. And these services will vary depending on the need of the youth and also could be driven by the parole plan. Oftentimes, youth may have alcohol and drug substance classes that they may need to attend. There may also be some mental-health counseling that needs to be accessed. Support for employment opportunities might make a connection to vocational rehabilitation. Again, these need to be very focused on the strengths of the youth. Make sure that they are appropriate and relevant for the actual individual. For example, when identifying mental-health services, and it could be on the parole plan that the youth go to group counseling, and so a community caseworker may be identifying group-counseling sessions. Then the youth shows up and sees individuals that are ages 30 to 60. That’s really not an age- or developmentally appropriate setting for group counseling.
The primary purpose of Project RISE is to create a replicable model for successfully transitioning youth with disabilities from JC facilities to the community. It takes a two-pronged approach to this goal by addressing the needs of individual youth (e.g., helping youth develop a transition portfolio) and through addressing systemic issues (e.g., increasing inter-agency communication). The reentry practices included:
Intensive educational and vocational programming that followed individualized education plan (IEP) and individualized transition plan (ITP) goals
Development of a transition portfolio for all youth with disabilities
Individualized aftercare and community supports after release
Heather Griller Clark provides more information on Project RISE by describing two key personnel, the transition specialist and the project director, who contributed to the successful transition of youth (time: 2:38).
Heather Griller Clark, PhD Co-Principal Investigator, Project RISE, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Arizona State University
Project RISE is a U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education model demonstration grant. We have one main partner in this grant. It’s the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, and the goal of Project RISE was to improve transition outcomes for kids with disabilities that are released from the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, which is our long-term, most secure facility in Arizona. In order to accomplish that goal, we hired two individuals. One is a transition specialist, and the other is our project director.
The transition specialist is the primary point person for the youth. The services include more individualized transition planning than what they would normally get at the facility. We also can support things like additional vocational programming. Even after release, we can support courses or things that the individual would need to obtain employment or enroll in whatever type of school or vocational or even post-secondary program they were interested in after release. The services vary depending on that individual student. It may be instruction in goal-setting for some, whereas others it may be more of a mentorship. It may be assistance planning for what’s going to happen post-release in terms of enrollment in school or employment. It is tailored to what the individual’s needs are.
We also have the project director, who really has the community side of this piece. So that individual is out in the community setting up job apprenticeships or internships, talking to districts, increasing awareness about the facility so that communities can be more receptive of these kids once they’re released. That individual really focuses on community engagement and getting the community ready and prepared to receive the youth once they are released.