Juvenile Crime and Restorative Justice

Over the last decade, there has been a steady increase in awareness and recognition that many youth involved with the juvenile justice system, particularly those who have experienced foster care, have been exposed to multiple types of traumatic events. This can include incidences of physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, community violence or neglect that impact youth before they first come to the attention of law enforcement.

Within the juvenile justice system, these youth often experience harsh punishment and incarceration, which can compound their trauma and weaken their ability to succeed in school, obtain employment, and develop healthy self-esteem and long-term relationships. However, by offering an alternative to punishment, there is an opportunity for youth to avoid re-victimization and to decrease re-offending.

Lisa Merkel-Holguin, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine works with The Kempe Center and touts the benefits of restorative justice, a practice that brings together the young people who offended, their families, victims and the community to address the harms in a non-criminalizing and non-punitive manner. She has been researching, implementing and promoting restorative practices in child welfare and juvenile justice systems for over two decades.

“Restorative justice is about repairing the harm that has been done,” she explains. “With this practice, there is a focus on accountability, responsibility, and righting the wrong which leads to rebuilding positive relationships among the youth, family members, the victim(s), police and the community.”

In the traditional juvenile justice system, professionals ask questions like: What laws have been broken? What punishment does the offender deserve? Under the restorative justice model, questions are framed differently: What is the nature of the harm resulting from the crime? What needs to be done to repair the harm? Who has been impacted and what do they need?

From a restorative justice perspective, rehabilitation cannot be achieved until the offender acknowledges the harm caused to victims and communities and makes amends.

At Kempe, we believe it is imperative to provide this kind of positive support for juveniles who commit crimes so that we can reduce their chances of reoffending and stop their trajectory from the juvenile justice to the criminal justice system. When post-traumatic emotional and behavioral problems are effectively addressed in all services and programs within the juvenile justice system, everyone — youths and their families, adults who are responsible for public safety, and the entire community — can become safer and healthier.

NKBA Holiday Fundraiser for Kempe

‘Tis the season! Our friends at the National Kitchen & Bath Association – Rocky Mountain Chapter are teaming up with Granite Imports and Rio Grand Co to host a holiday fundraiser for The Kempe Foundation this November. Join them for a night of fun, food, drink, as well as live and silent auctions all while raising money for Kempe!

NKBA Holiday Party 2019 Details
November 14, 2019 | 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Rio Grande Design Center
123 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, CO 80223

Register

All donations will support Fostering Healthy Futures a positive youth development program that uses mentoring and skills training to empower youth who have been placed in out-of-home care to foster their own healthy futures.

Protecting Against Emotional Abuse

According to the Child Maltreatment 2017 report prepared by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2.3 percent of children experienced psychological or emotional maltreatment in 2017. This number underestimates the true scope of the problem, as emotional abuse is more difficult to identify than other types of child abuse.

Children from all backgrounds can be at risk of emotional abuse, especially when a family is experiencing multiple life stressors, such as a family history of abuse or neglect, health problems, marital conflict, or domestic or community violence—and financial stressors such as unemployment, poverty and homelessness. All of these may reduce a parent’s capacity to cope effectively with the typical day-to-day stresses of raising children.

Research has shown, however, that the good can outweigh the bad, and that we can mitigate or eliminate the risk of emotional abuse by developing strong protective factors in parents and families.

The Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework distills extensive research into a core set of five protective factors that everyone can understand and recognize in their own lives. These protective factors work as safeguards that can help parents find resources or supports and encourage coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under difficult circumstances.

Parental resilience is a protective factor that can help one manage stress when faced with challenges, adversity or trauma. Parents who can cope with the stresses of everyday life, as well an occasional crisis, have resilience. They have the flexibility and inner strength necessary to bounce back when things are not going well.

Social connections can also provide emotional support for a family. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends, family and neighbors often find that it is easier to care for their children and themselves. On the other hand, parents who are isolated, with few social connections, are at higher risk for child abuse and/or neglect.

Access to concrete supports for the entire family may also help prevent the unintended emotional abuse or neglect that sometimes occurs when parents are unable to provide for their children. Families who can meet their own basic needs and who know how to access essential services such as childcare, health care, and mental health services are better able to ensure the safety and well-being of their children.

It is also important for parents to understand child development and parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language and social and emotional development. Children thrive emotionally when parents provide respectful communication and listening, consistent rules and expectations, and safe opportunities that promote independence. Conversely, delayed social-emotional development may obstruct healthy relationships.

When multiple protective factors are present, a family is better able to successfully navigate difficult situations and moderate the risk of emotional and other types of abuse or neglect.

​Within the Colorado Department of Human Services, the Office of Early Childhood has established the Strengthening Families Network to increase awareness and encourage efforts to embed the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework in family support practice across Colorado.

Learn more about how this framework is being implemented throughout the state here.

Hidden Scars: A Look at Emotional Abuse in Sports

While we often talk about the long-term, adverse effects that stem from physical and sexual abuse and neglect, the toll and trauma of emotional abuse can be just as damaging.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love and threatening. Children who have suffered emotional abuse or neglect may find it difficult to form healthy relationships, become overly reliant and dependent on one person, or develop problems with emotions and memory.

Within the world of sports, emotional abuse is an under-acknowledged but common form of abuse that occurs at all levels, from youth and grassroots amateur sports organizations to professional leagues.

Emotional abuse within sports and athletics typically manifests as shaming and mocking for poor performance, using inappropriate nicknames, denying attention, making threats of repercussions, and excluding or singling out individuals.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport– the first national organization of its kind focused on ending all forms of abuse in sports – has endeavored to make athlete well-being the centerpiece of our nation’s sports culture through abuse prevention, education and accountability. Katie Hanna, the Director of Education & Outreach for the Center, explains that abusive behaviors are usually demonstrated by coaches, but can also be perpetrated by an athlete’s teammates or even parents.

“No matter the source, emotional abuse and bullying can have a lasting impact on athletes. These bullying behaviors can manifest feelings of shame and degrade self-esteem, pushing some athletes to leave their team or even quit the sport entirely because of it.”

Within the world of sports, Hanna adds, the power imbalance between coaches and athletes can lead to that relationship degrading into an unhealthy one.

“At the Center, we offer training for sports groups, coaches and parents that educates them on how to create a safe and supportive environment for athletes. Ultimately, it comes down to prevention and changing the sports culture to focus on building healthy relationships that foster the growth and improvement of athletes.”

In addition to offering trainings and consultations to sports organizations, the U.S. Center for SafeSport responds to and resolves allegations of physical, sexual and emotional misconduct. The Center also has exclusive authority over reports of alleged sexual abuse or conduct related to the underlying sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its 50 National Governing Bodies. Since launching in 2017, there have been 3,256 reports made to the Center, 552 sanctions issued, and 796,505 SafeSport trainings completed.

“The most important thing you can do as a parent, coach or athlete is to speak up when you see or hear something inappropriate happening on the court or field,” said Hanna. “The more we openly discuss this issue, the more we can ensure that every athlete will be safe, supported and strengthened through sport.”

To learn more about the U.S. Center for SafeSport, click here.

The Two-Generation (2Gen) Approach – Kempe’s Take on the 2Gen Approach to Ending Child Abuse and Neglect

A relatively new approach for addressing a family’s economic security, 2Gen, is gaining recognition across the U.S. and in Colorado. As initially launched, 2Gen was designed as an approach to put a family on a path to economic security and thereby realize the family’s full potential. We believe, however, to realize a family’s full potential we must address the broader spectrum of trauma and challenges faced by both parents and children. If used to address this broader spectrum of trauma and challenges, 2Gen can serve as an effective tool in ending the cycle of child abuse and neglect.

Dr. Steven Berkowitz, MD, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, explains, “Very often, children who experience trauma have parents or caregivers who were also traumatized in their youth and never received treatment to address the emotional, cognitive and behavioral consequences. Because trauma can be transmitted across generations, we see these children experience the same things that happened to their parents and caregivers.”

By treating symptoms experienced by both the parents and children, healing can begin for the entire family. The 2Gen approach allows younger generations to avoid carrying on the negative effects of trauma they’ve experienced, which in turn can mean lower incidences of child abuse and neglect in the future.

Dr. Berkowitz is the Director of the START Center, which in partnership with the Kempe Center’s IMHOFF Clinic, uses the 2Gen approach to treat families, children and caregivers, dealing with the effects of all forms of trauma.

Another example of the 2Gen approach being implemented in Colorado is the Generational Opportunities to Achieve Long-Term Success (GOALS) program, a collaborative between Arapahoe County Human Services and Family Tree. GOALS uses the 2Gen approach to address homelessness, which can offer long-term benefits for the entire family unit.

In addition to providing temporary housing to keep the family together, GOALS teaches parents how to financially support their family, connects children with educational opportunities, and offers other services simultaneously to create healthy individuals and a stable family unit. Addressing both the physical and mental needs across generations offers a greater chance of breaking the cycle of poverty many families find themselves mired in.

At Kempe, we know that when supported by the right programs which address a family’s needs holistically, children are more likely to avoid – or heal – from experiences of child abuse and neglect.

Learn more about the START Center and the Kempe Center’s IMHOFF Clinic, as well as the 2Gen approach here.