The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) applied and was selected to participated in the Length of Stay (LOS) Policy Academy. The Length of Stay (LOS) Policy Academy’s goal is to support jurisdictions to identify and address key factors contributing to lengths of stay for youth in post-adjudication placement. As part of the LOS Policy Academy, selected jurisdictions examine and reform policies, practices, and other factors driving post-adjudication length of stay. Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators, with funding and support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, are assisting jurisdictions in the development and implementation of their Action Plans by providing education, consultation, and technical assistance (TA).
While participating in LOS Policy Academy, Oklahoma OJA identified key focus areas on their action plan including improving structure and delivery of treatment programming, particularly bettering family connections and reentry planning, staff recruitment and training, and enhancing infrastructure and physical plant of treatment facilities. As a result of action plan implementation, OJA has been transforming the treatment landscape through investment in care, development of staff, and building state-of-the-art infrastructure to meet the unique needs of today’s youth. The agency opened new secure care cottages in September 2021. These living units include individual rooms for residents, large amount of natural light, and space conducive to effective programming. OJA continues to provide a leadership academy for all new secure care staff at our new campus with the goal of delivering exceptional services that involve structure, encouragement, hope, accountability, and celebrations of achievement in a safe environment that ultimately change the trajectories of adolescents in our care. Providing the positive environment is enhancing rehabilitation efforts and impacting length of stay through improved engagement with the youth.
Further, a new step-down policy has been approved, and is being implemented to better facilitate the right level of care at the right time in treatment. It allows the treatment team to facilitate more appropriate placement decisions and allows flexibility when changes to the level of care are warranted. Efforts are also underway to coordinate and centralize decision making in youthful offender cases across the state.
OJA continues to target length of stay in its community-based, contracted group homes through system improvements. New reporting requirements have been implemented which ensure that timely and meaningful reports are prepared and shared with key stakeholders including the courts. The new reporting system has been well received by key stakeholders and will allow a more data-informed approach to determine youth who may qualify for earlier reentry planning based on program engagement and family readiness. OJA is excited about being a hope-centered agency, dedicated to improving the lives of young people and supporting communities.