Prosecutor Volume: 40 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2006 Pages: 12-16
This article describes a partnership between the Mobile County District Attorney's Office (Alabama) and the Mobile County Public Schools for the purpose of designing and implementing the Make the Right Choice Helping Families Initiative (HFI), which provides services to families of students who engage in serious misconduct at school.
In addition to its partnership with county public schools, the District Attorney's Office also maintains contact with law enforcement, health, mental health, and social service agencies, along with other community agencies that service troubled children and their families. During the 2004-2005 school year, the HFI made 3,269 referrals for 198 different services provided by 150 different agencies and organizations. Sixty-seven percent of the families who completed the program showed improvement in family functioning that benefited the children and improved their behavior. HFI offers early identification of at-risk students, followed by early intervention. Intervention is triggered by serious acts by youth that include such offenses as bomb threats, assault, robbery, possessing or selling drugs or alcohol, and bringing a gun or switchblade knife to school. Intervention is limited to students whose behavior results in suspension from school but not an arrest. Arrested students are processed through the juvenile court and probation systems. The youth and his/her family are confronted with the need for change, and they are referred to appropriate services. Progress in the use and outcomes of recommended services are monitored. Eleven brief case studies illustrate the kinds of cases handled by HFI and the types of services provided.
United States of America