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Indiana leaders vote to recommend youth violence prevention efforts

The Marion County Juvenile Detention Center in Indianapolis. The Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana works to prevent and divert youth from entering the justice system.
Eric Weddle/WFYI
The Marion County Juvenile Detention Center in Indianapolis. The Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana works to prevent and divert youth from entering the justice system.

Several local groups are working to interrupt the revolving door for Hoosier youth in the justice system. But in Indiana, there isn’t a statewide framework for youth violence prevention.

The state’s Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana wants to change that.

The commission is comprised of mostly elected and appointed government officials. The group’s violence subcommittee has spent about 18 months looking at more than 20 violence prevention programs and initiatives across the country to see if they could benefit youth in Indiana.

“What we really wanted to do was take a wide look at evidence based, evidence informed, promising practices on prevention and intervention programs,” said Steve Balko, director of school building safety for the Indiana Department of Education and a member of the subcommittee, at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

The committee chose three programs —Cure Violence,Credible Messenger Mentoring for Justice Involved YouthandProject BUILD— to present to the commission. Balko said the programs look at prevention through different lenses.

“We chose three rather than just one, recognizing that not every community has the same resources, has the same needs, and is facing the same violence issues,” Balko said.

The Cure Violence prevention method includes interrupting potentially violent situations, identifying and changing the behavior of those most likely to engage in violence, and changing group norms that promote violence.

Credible Messenger Mentoring for Justice Involved Youth is a program where youth are connected with individuals from similar backgrounds to help change beliefs and actions.

Project BUILD uses intervention specialists to diffuse neighborhood conflict, mentor youth away from gangs and help them work through historical trauma and violence.

The committee voted to support the programs and consider potential funding options for the initiatives in the future.

Approval of 2021-2022 annual report

The commission also approved its 2021-2022annual report. The report includes highlights of collaborations and initiatives the commission participated in over the past year to benefit young, vulnerable Hoosiers.

In July 2022, the commission added two young adults with former experience in the foster care system and residential treatment to the group as members.

The commision created a resource for families topromote self-advocacy.It also created a resource for professionals on beinginclusive to families and respecting their voice.

The Juvenile Justice and Cross-System Youth Task-Force worked to support youth transitioning back to their families after an out-of-home placement. The task force surveyed Indiana juvenile justice stakeholders on the type of reintegration services that are needed, available and accessible in their communes, and then made recommendations that will be considered by what will be the new Youth Justice Oversight Committee.

The commission also worked to create amultisystemic therapypilot program to support at-risk youth. Federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act has helped fund six pilot programs that are set to start providing services in fall 2022.

The commission also updated the content of theIndiana Information Sharing Guide, which allows professionals who work with children to get accurate information about record-sharing guidelines, including what records can be shared and with who.

Contact reporter Darian Benson at Follow on Twitter: @HelloImDarian

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Media. To see more, visit WFYI Public Media.

Darian Benson is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis. An Indy native, she is eager to report on public health in her hometown. Darian graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana Unviersity- Purdue University Indianapolis. Previously, she covered city and public policy for WFYI and statewide public health for Indiana Public Broadcasting.