Thinking Outside the Box to Build a Comprehensive Approach to Successful Case Planning

Written by James A. Klein, Juvenile Court Probation Officer, 2nd Judicial District (NM)

I have worked with the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Juvenile Drug Court for the past 3 ½ years. During this time, we have always used the GAIN Q3 (Q3) to assess the eligibility of all potential drug treatment court clients. The Q3 is the Global Assessment of Individual Needs which includes three separate versions (GAIN-Q3 Lite, GAIN-Q3 Standard, GAIN-Q3 MI (Motivational Interviewing) that screen for the recency and frequency of behavior and service utilization in nine service areas). This tool provided us with a lot of information about our clients, especially their needs. We often bragged to other stakeholders (state probation, public defenders, and district attorneys) that we used the Q3. We claimed that we could take care of our clients because we knew them!

However, we came to realize that we did not fully take advantage of the tremendous amount of knowledge we learned from the Q3 because we used a cookie cutter approach within our phase system, rather than a comprehensive approach to case planning, based on the Q3. Because we did not fully take advantage of all of the insight the Q3 provided us, we created extra work for ourselves. We needed to make the benefits of our program relevant to the needs of our clients. We needed to make some changes.

By working with the NCJFCJ Learning Collaborative, we learned to use the information our clients provided when conducting the Q3 assessment and view that information with a strength-based lens. We started to individualize our clients’ case plans by:

  • Cultivating a trusting, professional relationship based on individual need
  • Recognizing that some clients were (often justifiably) distrustful of probation so we were always honest about sanctions and incentives
  • Learning the needs and strengths of the client’s family
  • Supporting the strength of the families
  • Respecting their personal beliefs, traditions, and culture
  • Creating case plans that emphasized growth and achievement
  • Developing program goals that are reachable and understandable to the client
  • Relating sanctions to the client’s misbehavior
  • Celebrating successes, including sobriety, on a regular basis

We always had the information within our reach, but now we are better at serving our clients because the information gathered does not simply target the right youth – now it is used to build successful case plans for the youth and families we serve.

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