Re-Establishing the DYS Northeast Region
On April 14, 2005, Jane E. Tewksbury was named as the Commissioner of the Department of Youth Services. One of her first orders of business was to re-establish the DYS Northeast Region. Youth from Essex and Middlesex counties were being served in Dorchester and Worcester, at considerable distances from their families and communities. The Department hired a Regional Director and administrative staff to oversee operations, re-allocated existing programs and community staff and opened the Northeast Regional office in Lawrence, MA. The DYS Northeast Regional Office was subsequently moved to a state-owned facility in Middleton, MA.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)
During her tenure, Commissioner Tewksbury has initiated reform efforts in several areas of the agency's operations. One of her primary goals is to reform the pre-trial detention system to create a multi-tiered system of detention alternatives and diversion programs with a range of security levels and program services that will better serve the needs of court-involved youth. In October, 2006, Massachusetts was selected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to participate in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), a nationwide effort that focuses on reducing reliance on secure pre-trial detention, while at the same time, strengthening the juvenile justice system. Worcester and Suffolk counties were designated as the two pilot sites for detention reform in Massachusetts and DYS held its official JDAI "Kick-Off" in February of 2007. In 2010 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Juvenile Court, JDAI expanded to two additional pilot sites in Middlesex and Essex Counties.
Improving Services for Youth
After realizing significant reductions in the detention population, other reform efforts have been undertaken to improve the quality of services for youth in DYS care. Commissioner Tewksbury directed a realignment of the continuum of services for females so that young women held on bail are served closer to their home communities; established a more comprehensive system of assessing newly committed females and ensured that young women in the community are receiving gender-responsive services in settings that are appropriate to their needs. The Department is now engaged in a similar effort to ensure that the continuum of services for young men is meeting their needs.
Under the direction of Commissioner Tewksbury, the agency began reforming its service delivery plan for youth in the community. DYS issued a new Casework Reference Guide, which calls for a 90/60/ 30-day review of all clients prior to release from secure and residential programs. This pre-release review allows for a more careful balancing of the Department's dual mission to protect public safety through the rehabilitation of the youth committed to its care and custody. The agency also undertook a re-design of its community reentry services and locations and awarded new, regionally-based contracts on July 1, 2009. The new design focuses on connecting youth returning to the community with community-based education, behavioral health and medical services. There is an increased focus on vocational education and job readiness and more emphasis on working with families. Caseworkers are actively engaged in ensuring that their clients form healthy relationships with caring adults and find safe places to live in communities where they can thrive.
First introduced by Commissioner Robert Gittens, Commissioner Tewksbury has expanded PbS from 8 residential programs to 21 residential programs. PbS is an acronym for Performance-based Standards for Youth Correction and Detention Facilities program, a major initiative of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that was first introduced across the country in 1995 to improve program safety and conditions of confinement in juvenile facilities. The PbS program provides a set of ambitious goals and standards for individual programs and tools to help facilities achieve these standards through regular self-evaluation. Assessment, detention and treatment facilities that are part of the PbS program collect data from client and program records and reports, client interviews, and staff and clients surveys twice per year, and enter the data online through the PbS web site. These data are checked by PbS staff and the results are reported back to facilities in the form of a PbS Performance Profile report showing the facility's performance. Areas of concern are identified and the PbS sites develop facility improvement plans (FIPs) to improve the conditions of confinement in their programs. FIP entries include a targeted outcome measure, action steps, progress notes and ongoing reviews. For example, PbS programs have developed FIPs to reduce assaults in programs, improve mental health screenings and physical fitness, reduce the use of restraints, and improve math and reading scores.
The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003 (Public Law 108-79) established a "zero-tolerance" standard for sexual assault in correctional facilities. In 2006 DYS adopted two separate policies to cover the requirements of PREA: (1) Staff Sexual Misconduct Policy; and (2) Youth Sexual Misconduct Policy. During the remainder of the year, all new and current DYS employees received training specific to the two new policies and managers were trained on the new policies in special regionally-based trainings. DYS' proactive efforts have been recognized nationally and DYS has assisted other states in the development of policies and standards for the detection, prevention, and punishment of sexual assault in a juvenile treatment setting.
DYS participated in a national pilot survey of the cost implications of the proposed national PREA standards. Those standards are expected to be finalized by the United States Attorney General in 2011.
DYS also participated in a pilot test of the National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC) in 2007 and provided important feedback to the Bureau of Statistics at the Department of Justice.
Workforce Planning and Development Initiative
Commissioner Tewksbury has supported a multi-year, multi-phase Workforce Planning and Development Initiative. With pro bono technical assistance through the Annie E. Casey Foundation's (AECF) Human Services Workforce Initiative, between 2008 and 2010, DYS created a baseline survey to identify the issues that were the most concerning to employees - from compensation and benefits to vicarious trauma and professional development, and designed a workforce development initiative that is responsive to those needs.
With a focus on direct care employees, DYS has strengthened its recruitment, selection and retention practices, and identified the need for additional training in the areas of safety, mental health, gang awareness, crisis intervention, behavior management, stress management and adolescent brain development.
This information is provided by the Department of Youth Services.