Our youth justice (YJ) speech-language therapy project with Oranga Tamariki in Waitakere began in February 2017 and we were delighted to see a piece about it in the Youth Crime Action Plan newsletter that came out yesterday (see photo). You can subscribe to the YCAP newsletter by emailing YCAPideas@justice.govt.nz It provides a regular summary about NZ initiatives in youth justice.
We are still working on the project with the YJ staff and will be discussing the resources and strategies with other local YJ stakeholders e.g. YouthAid Police, Youth Advocates etc in a couple of weeks. The same project is underway now with another YJ Oranga Tamariki team in Mangere/Otahuhu.
We are evaluating this pilot as we go to see how staff adapt their communication in their interactions with young people, and to see how effective the various tools we have been creating with the team are for improving young people’s engagement and participation in youth justice services. We’ve been tackling projects that staff have identified they need to make communication accessible for all e.g.
- ways to make sure that legal charges make sense;
- bail conditions and Family Group Conference Plans that are free of jargon and supported with visuals for those who have literacy challenges;
- staff have strategies up their sleeve for
- spotting when young people find communication challenging and why that might be,
- explaining complicated information,
- discussing thorny topics with young people’s such as remorse, reparation and custody, and what victims’ perspectives might be, and for
- ensuring young people can express what they think should be in their Family Group Conference plans and can participate in those FGCs
The long and short is that we want young people and their families/whanau to have a true voice in the interactions that go on and for the bewildering, frustrating and anxiety-provoking confusion that young people tell us they often experience is reduced.
So far the results are promising. We are learning a great deal ourselves as we go, and have welcomed the enthusiasm and partnership with our YJ colleagues who have many ideas for how they want to develop communication tools, resources and strategies to get round the challenging communication barriers that so often can arise in the youth justice system. A couple of the latest comments from staff about the project are on the blue speech bubbles.