Diverting Youth at Probation Intake: The Front-End Diversion Initiative addresses the growing body of research that demonstrates youth experiencing mental health challenges are disproportionately represented within the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, youth involved with the juvenile justice system often have not one, but several co-occurring psychiatric disorders. These rates suggest that most youth with mental health needs end up in the juvenile justice system not because they have committed a serious offense, but because their need for coordinated mental health treatment in the community has not been met.
In 2008, the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network (MHJJAN), a component of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, targeted “front-end, pre-adjudication diversion” as its first area of focus. The goal was to develop opportunities and identify strategies to divert youth with mental health needs from juvenile justice system processing. Texas, one of the eight states participating in the MHJJAN, chose to use specialized juvenile probation officers at the point of intake to divert youth with suspected mental health needs by connecting them and their families to community resources. Known as the Front-End Diversion Initiative (FEDI), this effort was seeded with funding from Models for Change and involved four local juvenile probation departments in Texas. Preliminary data suggest that FEDI has increased access to needed mental health services while reducing further involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.
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This resource was first shared in 2015.