This Article reports the results of a qualitative research study identifying best practices for family engagement in the juvenile justice system. The typical system operates from the faulty premise that families cause their children’s problems. As a result, decisions about treatments or sanctions for youth routinely fail to incorporate family members’ views about how best to address a youth’s needs. Instead, system professionals make decisions that expose youth to treatments and environments that increase recidivism and place youth at a high risk of being abused. Victims, youth, families, and system professionals all lose under the current model. The goal of this study was to develop a shared understanding of how to reform justice systems to meet the needs of youth and families without sacrificing the public safety concerns of justice system professionals and victims.
Synthesizing efforts from jurisdictions across the country, this Article proposes a radical transformation of the justice system and introduces a concept called Family-Driven Justice. The foundational values of this transformation are: all families care about their children and can be trusted to make good decisions on their behalf; all families have strengths to build upon; all families want their children to grow up safe and free from justice-system involvement; and all families have dreams for their children and want them to succeed in adult life.