This story is associated with a fiscal year 2020 award made to Douglas County, Nebraska, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.
About the Program
In Douglas County, the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) is the central point of assessment and diversion services for youth who are cited for law violations, are referred by schools for truancy violations, and come to the attention of the Douglas County Attorney’s Office for status violations. The purpose of the JAC is to provide effective, targeted referrals for youth to community-based services, as well as to divert youth from formal court processing. The JAC ensures an appropriate system response for youth while effectively serving youth in their neighborhoods and communities.
JAC assessment specialists administer the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument Version 2 Behavioral Health Screening and Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory risk and needs assessment with all youth (and their parents/guardians) who are referred by the juvenile county attorney. Based on each juvenile’s individual screening and assessment score, the specialists identify appropriate community-based services for the juvenile. Assessment specialists use the graduated sanction matrix designed in conjunction with the county attorney to help identify and administer the appropriate system response for the juvenile. For youth eligible for diversion, specialists recommend a case plan to the county attorney for approval.
If the plan is approved, specialists make referrals for diversion services to providers throughout the community to meet the individual risks and needs of each youth. The JAC partners with community-based service providers who serve the assessed needs of each youth. Each assessment specialist receives approximately 250 assessment referrals each year and provides basic case management for all youth placed on formal diversion. Case management tracks the juvenile’s compliance with approved diversionary case plans, maintains case-specific communication with county attorneys as needed, and follows each case to completion.
Program Successes and Effect on the Community
During the April–June 2023 reporting period, the Douglas County JAC assessed 235 youth. In this period, 247 youth (some of whom were assessed in the prior period) were diverted from court filing and progression into the formal juvenile justice system, and 169 youth were referred to skill- or therapeutic-based interventions based upon their individual risks and needs.
See the JAG section of our site for information about the BJA program through which funding was provided.