FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

January 2013

New Juvenile Justice Project at ICI: Making a Map, Finding My Way Back

Youth with disabilities, in particular, youth with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD) and learning disabilities (LD), are overrepresented in correctional facilities across the U.S. They also have a high rate of recidivism. In response to the need to support these youth to make a lasting transition out of the corrections system, the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) is partnering with area organizations and agencies on the new project, Making a Map: Finding My Way Back. The project brings together ICI, Ramsey County Community Corrections, the non-profit organization Amicus, St. Paul Public Schools, Twin Cities postsecondary programs, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to carry out a comprehensive, evidence-based project supporting juvenile offenders with disabilities who are transitioning from Ramsey County juvenile justice facilities into secondary and postsecondary education, employment, and community programs. The four-year project, funded by a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, began January 1, 2013 and is directed by David R. Johnson and Jean Ness.

Juvenile offenders have issues different from those of adult parolees that must be addressed if they are to become successful, contributing members of society. Those include the need for guidance and support that takes into account their stage of psychosocial development. In addition, youth with disabilities require individualized assistance tailored to their particular needs. Making a Map addresses these issues through utilizing research- and evidence-based interventions and practices, including the following:

  • Check and Connect. A student engagement intervention developed at ICI that consists of: 1) mentoring; 2) regular checks on students’ school adjustment, behavior, and educational progress; 3) timely, data-driven interventions; and 4) family engagement. Check & Connect mentors will be assigned to support the youth while they are incarcerated/in detention, support development of transition/reentry plans and the transition back to school, and support and monitor youth for two years after release to ensure that they continue to meet their academic and behavioral goals for integration.

  • Expanding the Circle. A transition-planning curriculum developed at ICI to help at-risk youth explore interests, aptitudes, and values while gaining the skills necessary for transition from secondary to postsecondary education and employment. It includes four components that will be used in this project: 1) Exploration of interests, aptitudes, and values as they relate to decisions about the future; 2) skill development in decision-making, self-advocacy, problem-solving, goal setting, organization, and communication; 3) exploration of postsecondary and career options; and 4) development of a goal-focused personal profile for the future.

  • Reintegration Strategic Planning Toolkit. A toolkit developed by ICI and the Minnesota Department of Education, and based on a prototype from ICI and the National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition that helps at-risk youth achieve positive school and postschool outcomes through strengthened interagency approaches and strategies. The toolkit will support reintegration planning by providing a specific process to enhance interagency collaboration and system effectiveness.

“We have wonderful collaborators on this project from Ramsey County who are as enthusiastic as we are to make a difference in the transition of youth with disabilities back into their schools and communities. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand the implementation of Check & Connect!” says Jean Ness. FFI contact Jean at or 612-625-5322.