AG announces Community-Based Services Consortium to benefit confined youth

TRENTON, NJ — Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced March 2 a transformative step in New Jersey’s juvenile justice system through the creation of a Community-Based Services Consortium that will bring a wide array of prosocial programs to youth in secure care settings and residential community homes operated by the Juvenile Justice Commission. The skills, habits, and knowledge that young people develop through these activities will foster self-esteem and resilience while also strengthening ties to their communities.

The JJC manages a continuum of care that includes three secure facilities and 10 residential community homes that provide programming, support and opportunities designed to help youth grow and thrive, and return home as independent and productive members of their communities.

Last year, the JJC announced its intent to develop a consortium of community-based service providers to engage youth in a variety of activities that support personal growth and development. A competitive funding opportunity resulted in the selection of 17 providers with a focus on those in locations where JJC youth will reside when they return home. The providers all have strong ties to their communities and have made significant investments to support and transform individuals and families. This focus has ensured that the service providers themselves are representative of the youth of color who comprise the majority of the JJC’s youth. Providers with specific understanding of female youth are also an important part of the consortium, with many services being provided by women of color.

As a result of the public health crisis, the JJC emphasized the importance of providers offering services virtually and transitioning to in-person service delivery when appropriate. The providers include individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations that offer educational, engaging and unique programmatic opportunities for youth.

In early 2021, consortium members will begin providing services in the following categories: art and design; media; sports and physical recreation; language arts; music; culture; drama and theater; and self-care and wellness.

“Bringing more community-based services to the young people in our state’s residential care facilities will not only help prepare them for success when they return home, but will also reduce recidivism,” Grewal said. “With today’s announcement detailing the new and innovative community-based programs available to them, our Juvenile Justice Commission continues to build on the transformational work it is doing to improve the lives of justice-involved youth in our state and reduce the number of young people in its care.”

“The JJC’s Community-Based Services Consortium will enhance the programming and supports currently provided by the JJC through its existing educational and rehabilitative service continuum,” JJC acting Executive Director Jennifer LeBaron said. “Through the wide array of prosocial programs that consortium members will deliver, young people will be afforded the opportunity to expand their horizons and to develop critical connections to community members that strengthen the supports available to them upon returning home. Opportunity and support are key to achieving positive outcomes among youth involved in the juvenile justice system.”

Among the Community-Based Services Consortium members is Universe Konadu of Newark. Universe Konadu is dedicated to empowering girls and women by providing mentorship, self-care tools, character/social skills development, independent living skills, and access to post-secondary education opportunities, internships and business ownership. Specifically, the SEEDS! Peer-to-Peer program is designed to empower those who have experienced trauma to take responsibility and shape their futures. Personalized small group mentoring sessions focus on education planning, financial literacy, goal-setting, leadership, decision-making, critical thinking, problem-solving, effective communication, stress and anger management, interpersonal relationship skills, empathy/compassion for others, and social justice.