Least Restrictive Options Lead to Better Lives

November 10, 2020
Male barista hands a customer a pastry.

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) works diligently to improve the lives of young people that come into our care and prevent further trauma. In the upcoming 2021 Legislative Session, DCYF is asking lawmakers to invest in a plan (i.e., pass legislation) that supports youth and young adults transitioning back into their communities more easily, while reducing recidivism and racial and ethnic disparities. The plan focuses on expanding least-restrictive options for when youth are ready to transition.  

Research indicates community placement with connection to education, vocational and employment opportunities decreases recidivism and increases successful reentry (McCarthy et al., 2016, and Altschuler & Bilchik 2015). This also results in positive contributions to the local and state economy, reductions in incarceration costs and an overall increase in public safety.

As part of our agencywide strategic plan, DCYF is focused on achieving better outcomes for young people by successfully transitioning them into adulthood. By expanding least-restrictive options, using the Risk-Need-Responsivity Model, we will ensure young people have equitable access to services that promote self-sufficiency and independence. Examples of least-restrictive options include:

  • Juvenile Rehabilitation Community Facilities: Where young people gain community employment skills, strengthen family connections through enhanced visitation and home leaves and attend public school, all in a more normal and therapeutic environment.
  • Aftercare Support: Community contracts for research-based reentry case management services provided to young people without parole aftercare.
  • Functional Family Parole (FFP): Where community counselors provide carefully planned reentry support to promote access and connection to essential community resources. This includes employment, housing, education and supervision to enhance a young person’s compliance with parole conditions and follow through on reentry plans they developed while in residential care.

Expanding least-restrictive options will help advance racial equity and remove barriers for young adults to successfully reintegrate into their communities. These young people have often experienced tremendous trauma, which impacts adolescent development. Transitioning them back into their communities with familial support and connections to education and employment opportunities helps to stabilize them. By increasing least-restrictive options, we can return young people to the community sooner with the resources, skills and support they need to thrive.

Throughout the 2021 Legislative Session, we will keep you informed on the agency’s progress in successfully advocating for our young people and share more about the benefits of least-restrictive options.