Missouri Practice Model

Missouri Practice Model

To see a six-part ABC News series on the Missouri model, click here.

The State of Missouri has developed the most widely respected juvenile system for rehabilitating youth in residential facilities. It has a low recidivism rate and has received national recognition from the The New York Times and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It recently received a prestigious award from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and was profiled in Casey’s Kids Count essay, “A Road Map to Juvenile Justice Reform.” The Baltimore Sun has also recommended its implementation.

The foundation of the Missouri model is an interactive approach between youth, families, treatment center staff and community staff. It takes a caring, personal approach rather than a correctional approach to treating young people. More specifically, the following are the essential elements that make the Missouri Model:

Community Services for Low-Risk Youth

Each region in the state has the full array of community services needed to divert low-risk youth from placement. Most importantly, this includes early interventions, day treatment programs, and evidence-based practices such as Multi-Systemic Therapy, a home-based service that provides intensive counseling and supports to youth and families.

Comprehensive, Group Rehabilitative Services

Youth receive an array of services designed to address the underlying causes of their delinquency. Youth remain in small groups of 10-12, and all treatment occurs in group meetings with a counselor. Youth act out real situations and help each other develop constructive solutions. Youth learn how to manage their emotions and how to have a more positive attitude about themselves. They learn stronger social skills and adopt healthy behaviors.

Youth receive six hours of educational instruction each day in small classes. They also participate in vocational and job training through the Department of Youth Services Job Program, a program that allows youth to gain employment skills and receive minimum wage compensation through a contract between the Division of Youth Services and the Division of Workforce Development.

Strong Link to Family and Community

A significant effort is made to maintain and strengthen the youth’s connection with his or her families and community, rather than allowing it to become disrupted.

Treatment centers are located close enough to where youth live to allow families to be fully involved in the treatment process. Therapists visit parents to let them know what is taking place in the treatment center, what to expect when the youth returns home and how the parents and youth can better work together.

Youth are allowed regular home visits to facilitate the transition back into the community and to address reentry obstacles. The same community-based service coordinator works with the youth during commitment and after release. The coordinator involves the youth, the family and the treatment staff. He or she assesses the needs of the youth, develops an effective treatment plan and ensures treatment and supervision needs are met. Coordinators work with no more than 15 to 20 youth at a time.

Staff Provide Services and Supervision

The staff are counselors, not guards. They supervise, implement group and individual treatment plans, provide group counseling and develop constructive relationships with the youth. The counselors work with the same group of youth from their admission through their release.

Staff receive extensive training on how to take on these new and different responsibilities. They all have some college education; about two-thirds have bachelor degrees or higher. They receive intensive ongoing training in working with young people and addressing the underlying causes of young people’s problems and behavior.

Open Dorm Model That Promotes Therapeutic Approach

Missouri uses a home-like environment rather than a correctional or institutional setting. This is done through design, furnishings, flooring and decorations. To encourage the group treatment, youth stay in open dorms rather than individual rooms.

The treatment centers are small, with no more than 48 youth. Youth dress in their own clothes, another contrast between the Missouri residential facilities and the prison-like conditions of most secure, youth correctional facilities around the country.

Seamless Transition and Post-Release Services

Aftercare planning begins at admission. Comprehensive aftercare plans include educational, vocational, counseling and employment services.

Youth receive intensive monitoring post-release by trackers, who are college students or residents of the youth’s home community. They assist service coordinators by monitoring youth’s behavior and activities throughout the day. Trackers maintain regular contact by acting as a mentor, assisting with homework and connecting youth to recreational activities. Youth receive aftercare services for six months on average.

Proven Effectiveness

Youth reenter the juvenile justice system at very low rates. According to the FY 2007 Annual Report for the Missouri Division of Youth Services, the recidivism rate during FY2007 was 7.3%, and has remained low over the past five years. The rate referred to the percentage of youth re-entering the division during the fiscal year who had received discharges during the current or previous fiscal year.

For more information, see Missouri’s Division of Youth Services, Programs and Services Booklet.