Family therapy keeps Brevard County teenagers out of jail
Youth less likely to re-offend
From left to right: Jessica Haines, 10, her father James Haines and his stepson Steven Scott, 16, play a game of
Operation. Scott recently had a fight with his stepfather, and the police were called. / Craig Rubadoux, FLORIDA
Written by
REBECCA BASU
FLORIDA TODAY

Brevard in top 10 for committed youth in Florida
371 youth served sentences in a residential facility in 2009, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
That put Brevard No. 9 out of 20 of the state's most populous counties for commitment rates per 100,000 youth
aged 10 to 17, higher than Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.


COCOA — Steven Scott did not get along with his stepdad. They had arguments. Scott's mother found herself in the
middle often, playing referee.

It got worse when the two had a physical altercation.

Police were called. Steven, 16, was arrested.

"They didn't know how to communicate with each other," said Julie Scott, Steven's mom.

As part of his probation, Steven went to Cocoa-based Crosswinds Youth Services to participate in a family therapy
program aimed at keeping teens from re-offending and keeping them out of the juvenile justice system.

Scott said her family is back together, and she's no longer playing referee.

The Crosswinds program is one of many in Florida to be implemented as the state makes reforms to the justice
system.

For many years, Florida has had one of the highest juvenile commitment rates in the country. In 2006, for example,
Florida committed children at a rate 50 percent higher than the national average, according to a report by Southern
Poverty Law Center, a civil rights and policy group.

Crosswinds helps troubled teens and families through 11 programs.

When Crosswinds started the family therapy program as a pilot three years ago, it needed to prove it would work --
teens couldn't get arrested again or violate probation, and substance abuse behaviors needed to stop or lessen.

With the program in its fourth year, statistics show teens aren't re-offending. In 2009, 78 percent of teens served
didn't re-offend.

After Steven was arrested and he was referred to Crosswinds for help, Julie Scott said she was at first a little
mystified.

"My idea of therapy was what I'd seen on television, with someone sitting on a couch, spilling your guts," she said.
This was different.

A counselor visited the family's home. All family members were involved.

"You work on communication," she said.

The program, called Brief Strategic Family Therapy and developed by researchers at the University of Miami, can
take place anywhere the family interacts in short sessions usually lasting 12 to 16 weeks.

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When the Scott family would fight, the counselor would intervene and ask questions to make them think about their
behavior and change the ways in which they related to and understood each other.

BSFT is one of roughly 25 programs, many of which are family therapies, that Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
recognizes for helping troubled teens.

Crosswinds is the only DJJ partner in Florida to use the BSFT model.

Short-term family therapies "have taken off specifically because of the pressures of managed care and getting
families and children treatment that is solution-specific, and getting them in and out quickly," said Paula Wolfteich,
director of the family learning program at Florida Tech.

Redirection
Family therapy programs, which are sometimes called "redirection" by the state, in part, are keeping youth from
commitment, which is costly and often ineffective.

Since 2005, redirection programs have saved taxpayers $50 million, according to a report from the state's office of
program accountability.

The number of youth committed, or sentenced to serve time in a secure juvenile residential facility, has declined
every year for the past five years, from 8,205 in 2006 to 5,476 last year, according to DJJ.

Still, large numbers of low-risk youth are getting committed.

In 2009, more than 1,100 children were committed for nothing more than a misdemeanor, according to the Southern
Poverty Law Center report.

The center recommends expanding redirection programs. DJJ officials couldn't offer specifics.

"We have a new secretary (Wansley Walters) who is committed to community-based models," said Mark Greenwald,
DJJ Chief of Research and Planning.

"I wouldn't be surprised as an agency if we move in that direction. She's only been here a few weeks, and we're still
working on these things."

Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget calls for more money for redirection and less for commitment. A bill attached to
Scott's proposal also seeks an outright ban on committing teens with misdemeanors.

It costs the state $109.22 per child per day for non-secure and $155.98 per child per day for secure facilities,
according to one analysis.

Back together
Crosswinds gets about $310,000 from DJJ for the therapy program and maintained the same funding level, though
its counselors went from three to two.

"All DJJ programs are at risk of being cut, but the evidence from these programs is wonderful. If we're being
recognized nationally, that shows this is effective," said Crosswinds Chief Operating Officer Karen Locke, referring
to an award from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Julie Scott, the mother whose son recently completed the family therapy program, said the family likely wouldn't have
sought counseling on their own.

"I'm glad we had to go through it," she said. "We needed some way to get back together."


When the Scott family would fight, the counselor would intervene and ask questions to make them think about their
behavior and change the ways in which they related to and understood each other.

BSFT is one of roughly 25 programs, many of which are family therapies, that Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
recognizes for helping troubled teens.

Crosswinds is the only DJJ partner in Florida to use the BSFT model.

Short-term family therapies "have taken off specifically because of the pressures of managed care and getting
families and children treatment that is solution-specific, and getting them in and out quickly," said Paula Wolfteich,
director of the family learning program at Florida Tech.

Redirection
Family therapy programs, which are sometimes called "redirection" by the state, in part, are keeping youth from
commitment, which is costly and often ineffective.

Since 2005, redirection programs have saved taxpayers $50 million, according to a report from the state's office of
program accountability.

The number of youth committed, or sentenced to serve time in a secure juvenile residential facility, has declined
every year for the past five years, from 8,205 in 2006 to 5,476 last year, according to DJJ.

Still, large numbers of low-risk youth are getting committed.

In 2009, more than 1,100 children were committed for nothing more than a misdemeanor, according to the Southern
Poverty Law Center report.

The center recommends expanding redirection programs. DJJ officials couldn't offer specifics.