Reducing the Involvement of Youth From the Child Welfare System in the Juvenile Justice System: Implementation of the Crossover Youth Practice Model in Five Minnesota Counties
This paper examines the successes and challenges experienced by professionals in five Minnesota counties as they began implementing the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM) (Lutz, Steward, Legters, & Herz, 2009; Herz, 2010). Maltreated youth involved in the child welfare system are at 45% to 72% greater risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system (“crossing over”) than youth from the general population (Ryan & Testa, 2005). Such dual system involvement can place vulnerable children at additional risk for mental health, education and vocational problems (Dworsky & Courtney, 2010). The CYPM aims to create organizational change across systems to reduce the involvement of youth from the child welfare system in the juvenile justice system. Such organizational change involves developing a unified vision and set of policies for service delivery, as well as changing the ways in which professionals within each system communicate and share information.
This qualitative evaluation is part of a larger ethnography. We purposively sampled CYPM designers (n=10); implementation team leaders, who primarily were upper level management professionals (n = 38); and front-line workers (n = 37). Each of the 85 participants took part in an in-depth, semi-structured, audiotaped, phone interview. Interviews included professionals’ understanding of and motivation for engaging in the CYPM, and initial successes and challenges that they experienced in implementing it. Interviews were transcribed verbatim. Emic codes were induced (Shwandt, 2007) through repeated readings of interview transcripts by two independent coders. Inter coder agreement was good. Disagreements were resolved through discussion. Credibility was further enhanced through member checks and peer audit (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).
This paper will report results on initial successes and challenges. Successes described by participants included breaking down professional “silos” through the sharing of information about roles and responsibilities, establishing relationships and a professional support network, and creating shared expectations around collaboration and communication. As a result of these successes, team members indicated that they were able to understand the needs of crossover youth in a more holistic way and then meet those needs through targeted, collaborative service delivery.
Challenges primarily revolved around the preexisting quality of the relations between systems (and individuals within the systems), actual and perceived legal constraints regarding professional roles and responsibilities, data-sharing restrictions, general resistance to change, constraints related to time and resources needed to provide collaborative services, and challenges specific to the multiple components of the CYPM itself.
There was variation in the degree of perceived success experienced by front-line workers, team leaders, and designers. Some of this variation appeared to be due to a paucity of training and support for front-line workers around the use of the CYPM.
Conclusions and Implications
Results suggest that the CYPM provides a comprehensive framework for systems interested in cross-system collaboration. Participants describe multiple successes and challenges in the initiation of cross-systems change that provide insight into the change process. Results also suggest that the degree of perceived success and challenge may vary by the amount of training and support received by staff.