Moving Forward on Juvenile Justice

February 01, 2017

KDOC Launching Juvenile Justice Initiative Statewide

February marks one year of the implementation of an innovative approach to juvenile justice in Southeast Kansas, with effects already improving the way the state addresses juvenile offenders.

For the past year, courts in Southeast Kansas have been employing an effective alternative to removing youth from their homes or confining them, known as Functional Family Therapy (FFT). Now this data-driven combination of therapy and supervision for juvenile offenders is about to reshape the way Kansas addresses crime committed by youth statewide. Extending this innovative approach statewide will further advance the state’s goal to keep juveniles in their homes by using alternatives to sentencing.

As Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) over Juvenile Services, I could not be more impressed by the results we are witnessing in Southeast Kansas. Working with our contract partner Eckerd Kids, we have for the past year employed FFT, a treatment strategy that has proven in other states for more than four decades to be effective at preventing juvenile offenders from committing more crimes.

In February we will celebrate with Eckerd Kids the successes seen in their region of the state in just one year. Already 89 juvenile-justice-involved youth and their families entered the FFT program instead of experiencing an out-of-home placement or secure confinement. Of those, just three were placed in out-of-home settings during FFT treatment, much improved from results of a 2014 study that found more than 51% of Kansas youth who were discharged from a Youth Residential Center II remained out of home six months post discharge. 

What this means is that youth who are supervised by the FFT program in Southeast Kansas are responding better to treatment, not committing additional crimes, maintaining their bonds to family, and costing the state less by staying out of more restrictive settings.

While the state incarcerates about 200 juvenile offenders, there are more than 1200 juvenile offenders across the state who are managed outside of a prison-type setting. It is essential that there be sufficient services within our communities to serve these at-risk youth.

FFT provides therapy and supervision of youth still in their homes to help them become more adaptive and successful. This program has proven over more than 40 years in numerous states to reduce reliance on out-of-home placement and its negative effects on the youth and family.

By giving families help to develop a supportive and structured environment, FFT has proven it saves families, while at the same time preventing crime and victimization in communities, not to mention reducing the cost to the public. State by state, FFT has proven over decades to reduce recidivism among youthful offenders – by 25 to 60 percent in some cases. We are so excited to now be able to offer this service to the entire state of Kansas.

The agency plans to hold kickoff events in Garden City and Salina soon for the partners contracted to serve those areas – Cornerstones of Care in Northeast Kansas, and Emberhope in Western Kansas. Based on the results we’ve seen in Southeast Kansas, I can’t wait to meet with leaders from across the state to discuss the positive impact FFT will make in their communities.

Terri Williams

Deputy Secretary, Juvenile Services

Kansas Department of Corrections