Learning from your Peers: Training through a Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Cross-Site Visit

Written by Derek K. Sumida, Probation Officer, Juvenile Drug Court (HI) 

Traveling over 3,000 miles from this tiny rock of Oahu to observe a partnering demonstration site participating in the NCJFCJ’s JDTC Learning Collaborative was such an eye-opening experience! We were lucky enough to visit the team in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was amazing how everyone on their team made us feel welcomed and treated us as one of their own. As the visiting/observing JDTC team, we were able to:

  • receive training on their referral process;
  • meet individually with staff to discuss their roles; and
  • observe their court proceedings.   

It was a pleasure to meet Lindsey Lucero, Program Manager, who helped move the program in a more evidence-based direction in the few years she has been with the program. Her timely statistics helped to justify the positions for a surveillance officer (Mario Valdez) to assist the probation officer (James Klein) and in-house treatment staff (Edward Baca and Maryah Vigil). The data she collected also provided information to Judge Marie Ward and Master John Schoeppner to help them effectively support and hold youth accountable.  

What really impressed me was the Albuquerque team's points-based system and the incorporation of incentives, which really focused on the strengths of the child and reinforced the necessary structure. I personally appreciated the "I Caught You Doing Something Good" practice. In this positive reinforcement strategy, team members rewarded youth for random acts of kindness. This is not a common practice we see in our judicial system. Another practice that struck me was that clients voluntarily stood side-by-side with other clients who did not have a parent in attendance during their court hearing. This demonstrated true leadership characteristics and awareness. 

Since the cross-site visit, our JDTC Program has met numerous times with our treatment providers to restructure our program. The goal was to take what we learned from observing practice in a partnering demonstration site and begin tailoring it to meet the needs of our community in Hawaii, which is culturally diverse in a very different way than Albuquerque.  

One major change was restructuring our phase system to help our clients focus on specific treatment goals in order to be promoted. We also implemented an incentive-based program (3-for-3 compliance sheet and Treasure Chest) to reward clients for attending school, abiding by their home detention/curfew, and submitting to random drug tests each week. Now, clients who are compliant throughout the week will have their names entered into our monthly "Fish Bowl" drawing which takes place at the beginning of each month. Winners get to select a gift card of their choice.  To assist clients and their parents in navigating the JDTC Program, we created a handbook to include all of the pertinent information for them to be successful. 

We would like to thank the Albuquerque JDTC team for its warm "Aloha" and dedication to becoming a model site for us to learn from. We would also like to thank Wendy Schiller and the NCJFCJ for working collaboratively with us and allowing us to experience this amazing cross-site visit. We hope more valuable opportunities like this become available in the near future!

If you are interested in reviewing a copy of the Albuquerque team's point-based system, contact Eloisa Chaparro at echaparro@ncjfcj.org. 

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