Truancy Case Management Handbook: Advice from the Field

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Truancy Case Management Handbook: Advice from the Field National Center for School Engagement January, 2007 An initiative of the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children 303 E. 17 th Avenue, Suite
Truancy Case Management Handbook: Advice from the Field National Center for School Engagement January, 2007 An initiative of the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children 303 E. 17 th Avenue, Suite 400 Denver, CO / Table of Contents METHODS... 1 ADVICE FROM THE FIELD... 3 PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONS... 5 JACKSONVILLE, FL. TRUANCY ARBITRATION PROGRAM... 5 HOUSTON TRUANCY REDUCTION DEMONSTRATION PROJECT... 7 THE AT RISK YOUTH PROGRAM, KING COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT, JUVENILE SERVICES DIVISION TLC FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, INC., OLATHE, KANSAS CALIFORNIA SCHOOL ATTENDANCE REVIEW BOARDS ISANTI COUNTY, MN TRUANCY PROBATION OFFICER PROGRAM PROJECT RESPECT TRUANCY REDUCTION PROGRAM, PUEBLO, CO SUCCESS STORIES ANTHONY TYRELL JOSH JEREMY AMY MARK MALAYA AZIZA SUE: THE POWER OF A HOME VISIT DYLAN RANDY LACY MARISSA ALEX ANGELA BAILEY NIKITA TONY TRACY NAOMI BRIAN TONY: CONTRACT EXAMPLE... 56 Methods Around the country, school administrators, counselors and teachers, juvenile court personnel and community members are working to start or improve truancy reduction programs. Although there is no single best model, a key component of many successful programs is the case management that helps to reveal and surmount the underlying challenges to routine school attendance. In the Fall of 2005, The National Center for School Engagement (NCSE) solicited contributions in the form of program descriptions, general advice, and specific case studies of successful students from two groups of case managers. First, as part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention s (OJJDP) Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program Evaluation, case managers for three of the funded programs were asked for their contributions. Second, NCSE posted a solicitation on the truancy listserv 1 for anyone who would like to contribute. A format outline accompanied both requests and is reproduced in Appendix A. As a result of these inquiries we received program descriptions and general advice from seven programs operating in seven states. Case managers who work for these programs submitted twenty-two case studies. This Truancy Case Management Handbook is intended to help case managers learn what is working for their colleagues to aid them in improving their own practice. The Handbook is organized into three sections. Advice from the Field is a summary of key recommendations and insights gleaned from the submissions, and is the only substantive part of this report written by NCSE staff. Points included in this section were 1 In order to subscribe to the listserv, go to click on the tab called Join Our Network, and follow the directions to sign up for the listserv. All are welcome. 1 made by at least two, and generally more, of the case managers. Program Descriptions includes basic information about how each program operates, and a general advice section written by a program leader. Case Studies includes each of the twenty-two case studies. While remaining loyal to the meaning and intent of each contributor, each piece has been edited for grammar and clarity, and, in order to protect the confidentiality of the students and their families, students names are changed and case managers names deleted from the individual stories. We would like to thank the following case managers and program directors for taking the time to contribute to this document: Christian Anderson - Isanti County, MN Stephanie Bartholomew Olaith, KS Yolanda Champion Jacksonville, FL Shelley Grant Jacksonville, FL Susana Herrera Houston, TX Barbara King Seattle, WA David Kopperud CA Terri Martinez-McGraw Pueblo, CO Adam Myers Seattle, WA Dawn Nannini Seattle, WA Kari Simpson Olaith, KS Jan Solomon Seattle, WA Jeremy Crowe Seattle, WA 2 Advice from the Field The recommendations made by the various contributors to this handbook are remarkably similar. Even though the case managers work in different communities and within different program structures, they largely agree about how to work most effectively with families to promote school attendance. The following is a summary of advice given by our contributors, and lessons readily apparent from the case studies. Each suggestion included in this list was made by two or more contributors. Additional ideas, reported by just one case manager, appear in the individual testimonies. One point on which respondents do diverge is that of suggested case load. However, since managers agree that some students need much more assistance than others, the reported differences may have to do with the mix of students served. Several contributors note that an ideal case load for intensive service provision includes families, but case managers can handle more cases if truancy is being identified and addressed early. The following recommendations are grouped by topic area: Program structure: Involve community agencies in the process of program development. Early intervention works best and is the most cost effective as well. House case managers in the school if possible to promote close contact with students. Take the time to build relationships with community agencies. General strategies: Make lots of referrals. Follow-up is critical. Understand the community and the culture from which students come. 3 While a high school diploma should be goal for most students, recognize that for some, the best option may be a GED. Relationships with families and students: Always include families. Promote communication within family. Home visits are invaluable for uncovering underlying challenges the student faces. For each of the students about whom case managers wrote, there exist significant challenges regarding home life, mental health issues or both. Listen. Be consistent. Be respectful. Try not to pass judgment, and focus on the family s strengths. Warnings: Do not do so much for a family that you become a crutch. Show students you are friendly and you care without being overly familiar. 4 Program Descriptions Jacksonville, Fl. Truancy Arbitration Program 1. General Program Background Information: a.) The following information is for the Jacksonville, Fl. Truancy Arbitration Program (TAP) based at the State Attorney s Office. The program director is Shelley Grant and the case manager is Yolanda Champion. b.) TAP provides services to parents and students. All families receive case management. The case manager has the capacity to monitor attendance, conduct home and school visits and to assist the family in any other way possible. TAP also can pay for the family to receive counseling, recommend for the child to receive tutoring or for the parent to receive parenting classes. The case manager can also link the family to other social services if needed. c.) We serve children who have reached the age of 6 years old or will be turning 6 years old by Feb. 1 st of any school year, but have not reached the age of 16 (6-15 years old). For the school year, gender is just about evenly split with 47% male and 53% female. Thirty- eight percent of the students are white, 57 % are African American, and 6% are of another nationality. The majority of the students are on free or reduced lunch which indicates low incomes. d.) I try to go out in the field at least 2 ½ days a week to do home visits. When I m not in the field, I m on the phone with my students parents, and they inform me why their child didn t attend school that day or a day within that week. I normally have cases open at a time. The cases that are high risk receive intensive case management which includes phone calls, home visits, and school visits or conferences as needed. When visiting parents, I m there for about an hour and sometimes longer depending on the situation. In Jacksonville, parents of truant students may be arrested for educational neglect. Parents are typically held in jail during one school day following an arrest. I try to help the parents on my caseload avoid arrest, but if they do not cooperate and their child s attendance does not improve, I have no choice but to recommend prosecution. 2. Your advice to case managers: a.) What to do...examples i.) Advise case managers to try and keep their case load at cases and this way you are able to be more effective in working with your parents, by being able to monitor more frequently, before a case becomes high-risk. This might also allow you to spend time with families focusing not only the bad, but also the good, because these parents need that extra support person with a good listening ear. ii.) Forming relationships with community agencies plays an important role in reducing truancy. If you can get your School Superintendent, Sheriff s Office, State Attorney s Office, and social service agencies involved, then citizens may see less crime being committed by juveniles (specifically daytime residential burglaries) and fewer dropouts from your school system. 5 The schools must first identify the truant child and then proceed with an initial school based intervention and, if proven unsuccessful, refer the case to the appropriate agency (ex. agency that work with kids who are ungovernable and can be held accountable for their own actions or to the State Attorney s Office, where the parent can be held accountable). The State Attorney s Office is here to intervene in trying to get that parent involved in their children s schooling. The Sheriff s Office s patrol officers can pick up all the truants that they see during school hours and deliver them to nearby middle or high schools or truancy centers. The personnel there can contact the parent to come and pick that student up. The parent is being made aware that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Counseling services come into play to address ungovernable behavior and if a parent feels family counseling would be beneficial. With everyone collaborating and coming together as one, at risk children return to school and delinquent activity decreases. b.) What not to do...example i.) Do only what is necessary for a family because when you go above and beyond, they become dependent on you and it is hard to get them out of that frame of mind. You don t want them to feel as though they need a crutch to lean on to get them through situations. They need to be taught to handle some situations on their own. 6 Houston Truancy Reduction Demonstration Project General program background The Gulfton Truancy Reduction Demonstration Project was funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to reduce truancy through early identification, assessment and intervention, improve juvenile and parental accountability, and increase community awareness and education concerning truancy. The Project provides a comprehensive truancy reduction and prevention program for the Gulfton Community. Services include: o Comprehensive Public Awareness and Education Outreach Campaign Provide bilingual truancy awareness/prevention presentations to student and parent groups and area businesses and apartment managers Promote the Youth Watch Campaign, distribute truancy posters and conduct community trainings on truancy laws and reporting truant youth Publish articles on truancy laws and consequences in local bilingual newspapers o Early Identification, Assessment and Intervention Case Management Services Home visitation program conducted by Houston Police Officers for early intervention with truant youth and their families Identify related needs of truant youth and families and provide referrals to social services Implement an incentive program for participating students Provide semi-monthly educational workshops to participating students Provide a university campus tour for participating students o Juvenile and Parental Accountability for Truancy Promote public awareness of the laws and consequences of truant behavior Increase parental involvement by collaborating with the target school s Parental Involvement Specialist Issue warning notices and truancy citations and refer participating students to the Juvenile Accountability Court Program The project strategy is implemented in three phases: Attendance, Referral and Enforcement. The uniqueness of the strategy allows law enforcement, school officials and city employees to collaborate to reduce truancy through early identification, assessment and intervention, as well as improve juvenile and parental accountability. The Truancy Reduction Project has also implemented a comprehensive public awareness and outreach campaign designed to educate the general public about truancy laws at social service provider and business organization meetings, and community events, in addition to providing truancy awareness and prevention presentations. The Gulfton Truancy Reduction Demonstration Project is operated by the City of Houston Mayor s Anti-Gang 7 Office and has developed a partnership between the Houston Police Department, the City of Houston Municipal Courts, and the Houston Independent School District. Houston s Gulfton neighborhood is a densely populated 3.2 square mile apartment community where a majority of its residents are immigrants. Gulfton consistently has one of the highest crime rates in the city according to the Houston Police Department. The crime concerns of Gulfton residents include crimes by juveniles, gang violence, violent crime, robbery, drug trafficking, alcohol related crimes, prostitution, and property crime. While crime overall is decreasing in the Gulfton area, crimes attributed to juveniles, such as theft and vandalism, remain consistent. In addition, socio-economic, cultural and community risk factors all contribute to truancy among youth who reside in the Gulfton neighborhood. Most Gulfton parents face economic difficulties, language and cultural barriers, and limited opportunities for acculturation. These challenges can make complying with compulsory education laws a low priority. In addition, parents are not always aware that compulsory education laws exist. The target population for the prevention component is all school-aged Gulfton youth and their parents/guardians. The initial target population for the intervention component was 250 eighth and ninth grade youth enrolled at Jane Long Middle School and Robert E. Lee High School and their parents/guardians who reside in the zip code. Currently, its services are limited to 250 ninth grade students. The majority of participating students are Spanish speaking and have immigrant backgrounds. Their ages range from 15 to 19. During the school year, approximately 20 to 25 ninth grade girls received intensive case management services. The Gulfton Truancy Reduction Project assists students with a variety of issues ranging from high-risk gang involvement and victimization, to a lack of parental supervision and provides family support services. The Project Coordinator spends an average of hours a week providing case management services. Twenty to twenty-five females receive approximately 3-6 hours of intensive case management services a month depending on their individual needs. Advice to case managers or those setting up case management programs The ideal case load depends on the level of truancy and the issues affecting the student. One case manager can serve 30 to 40 students if the students are considered early intervention and exhibit a low level of truancy. If students are late intervention and exhibit high levels of truancy, a single case manager should focus on no more than cases. It is important to form relationships with community agencies. To begin, case managers and program coordinators should attend functions and meetings in their community and network with other attendees. Networking is especially important in order to build a referral base for your clients. Case managers should familiarize themselves with the services in the area and how each agency can complement the program and vice versa. Parents and families should always be included in the process of working with truants. Case managers should understand the issues affecting the target population and 8 community. Rapport is the key to providing effective case management services. It is important not to make promises you cannot keep. Follow-up and consistency are crucial when working with families. A flexible schedule is particularly important when serving working-class families. Remember their time is limited and valuable. Change is a difficult process for everyone, so do not expect quick and dramatic changes. Acknowledge small improvements with incentives such as school supplies or household items. When working with students, I find that gaining their trust is invaluable. Be understanding, patient, do not pass judgment and listen. Be consistent and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! Be honest and open. As the case manager in Gulfton, I typically ask students what they believe is best for them and then work collectively with them to help them achieve it. It is a mistake to assume that what they need is an adult to tell them what is best for them, what to do, and/or treat them as if they are incompetent. I work with students to identify their goals. Students are receptive to this strategy. Meet with them regularly, not just when something is wrong. What not to do... It is important not to expect students and their families to share the same values and beliefs as you do. For instance, when I began working with this Project, I was determined to advocate high school graduation with a diploma and see General Educational Development (GED) Testing Programs as an ultimate last resort regardless of the student s situation due to my values. But as I began providing case management services, I realized that although I may share the same cultural background and have generally similar experiences as the students, I must revise my goal of advocating initially for a high school diploma to advocating for the completion of high school in the manner that best suits the student. Completing high school is a significant accomplishment for anyone, but to this target population, it indicates true triumph over risk factors that challenge their integration and acculturation process. 9 The At Risk Youth Program, King County Superior Court, Juvenile Services Division General program background The At Risk Youth Program, through King County Superior Court, Juvenile Services Division, was developed in 1999 with a grant from OJJDP to provide alternatives to the formal court process for court-involved, truant youth in King County, Washington. Initially, two alternatives were developed: Attendance Workshops and Community Truancy Boards. a) The pre-court attendance workshops have provided truant youth the opportunity to develop behavior contracts with their parents in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. These contracts are monitored by the school district for thirty days to assess compliance and level of behavior change. In the event of non-compliance, school districts can refer youth to community truancy boards (if available) or request a preliminary hearing for these youth to obtain a court order compelling them to go to school. b) With the initiation and support of Superior Court, Becca 2 staff helped schools develop Community Truancy Boards (CTBs) in several school districts. CTBs consist of school district personnel, including but not limited to, the Becca representative (liaison to court), school counselors, school nurse, and volunteer members of the community. Unfortunately, due to decreases in funding, not all school districts were able to maintain their CTBs, and currently there are only two in operation in King County. The CTBs are very effective, however, in that a student and parent(s) are given time to meet with the board and explain their circumstances in depth, resulting in referrals, recommendations, and commitments from all parties to take necessary steps agreed upon to resolve the problems that impact youths attendance. A stipulated agreement is the outcome of this meetin
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