This literature review synthesizes descriptions of the role of family engagement for youths in the juvenile justice system, focusing on how jurisdictions have attempted to improve family engagement, family-engagement practices, and outcome evidence for programs with family- engagement strategies as key components.
The literature review found that policies, written materials, programs, and practices have been designed and implemented to engage families in the justice system process. Some research indicates that participation by family members can improve the effectiveness of juvenile justice community-based and residential programs, as well as reentry programming. Barriers to family engagement in juvenile justice processing include families feeling blamed for their child's illegal behaviors, which undermines respect for justice processing policies. Also, the perceived punitive features of many juvenile programs can undermine trust between system professionals and family members. Other barriers are a lack of understanding of the juvenile justice system by family members, transportation and scheduling problems, cultural differences, and language barriers. Common efforts to address these barriers include treating families with dignity and respect, building collaborative relationships with families, presenting program information that can be understood by family members, ensuring regular two-way communication, support from parents in similar situations, and providing for family input in policies and practices that affect their children. Evaluation outcome evidence on family engagement is limited, because it is usually only one component in the evaluation of multi-component programs. More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these frameworks and interventions. 74 references