Iowa:  Preventing Homelessness Among Reentering Prisoners

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Best Practice | August 18, 2006

Polk County, Iowa lacks many services for youth aging out of the juvenile court system. Consequently, many delinquent youth re-offend and end up either in prison or homeless. Working in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Corrections, Polk County Decategorization administers the youthful offender portion of the "Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Grant" to provide a supportive and cohesive transition for juveniles aging out of the juvenile system and returning to the community. The initiative is also aimed at reducing or eliminating future involvement with the adult criminal justice system. The aftercare collaboration utilizes a Wraparound philosophy to address gaps and barriers in service. This "Going Home" grant funds case managers, a part time facilitator, and has a flexible fund to be used in conjunction with the needs of the individuals.

Target Population
The Polk County Decategorization will focus on youthful offenders, aged 17 ½ to 20, leaving the State Training Schools, both the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo for females and the State Training School in Eldora for males.

Services
A team of individuals is created based on the needs of the individual being served. This team, called the Community Transition Team, along with the individual, creates an individualized wraparound plan that addresses all areas of their lives. The areas most critical are housing, education/employment, psychological needs, safety plans, legal status, and additional supports not provided by traditional services. The plan includes goals, action steps, budgets, and outcomes and is reviewed at certain intervals or as needed.

In terms of housing, reunification with families will be done if at all possible, and if not, housing will be obtained individually using Home, Inc. to place youth.

Community Transition Team (CTT)
The CTT is a multidisciplinary group of individuals that review all the individuals entering and leaving the state training schools. This process is ongoing during the placement as well as after discharge. Members of the Community Transition Team include: Wraparound Case Facilitator, Aftercare Case Managers, Employment/Training Specialist, Mentoring agency, Housing advocates, Juvenile Court Services, and any other appropriate parties identified as being essential to the plan development.

The following is a description and timeline of how the individuals are served through this process while at the training schools and after they return to the community:

Step 1
The offender enters the facility. The facility will contact one of two agencies in our community that will provide case management and aftercare services for the individual. The goal is for these relationships to build while in the facility. If the individual is going to age out of the facility the individual will be referred to either PACE, the agency funded by the grant to provide after care case management for 18-20 year olds males, or Lutheran Social Services PRIS*M program, which provides services to the 18-20 year old females.

Step 2
Case Managers contact the Wraparound Case Facilitator when the individual enters the facility to begin placing individuals on the review schedule.

Step 3
About 30-60 days into placement the Case manager meets with the individual in placement to begin building a relationship, performing strength discoveries and compiling information from providers in relation to the individual.

Step 4
60 days into placement the Case manager will staff the individual with the Community Transition team. The CTT reviews the information and begins to identify needs in certain life domains and assigning responsibilities.

Step 5
120 days into placement the CTT reviews the individual again to review progress and begin creating the wraparound plan.

Step 6
Approximately 45 days before discharge the CTT will review the individual's progress, complete the wraparound plan, and prepare for discharge. Any further steps will be identified in the individual's Wraparound Plan and reviewed by the CTT as identified in the plan.

Step 7
At time of discharge, youth will have a plan in place that will ensure that the youth has appropriate and affordable housing and that the education/training/employment plans are in place. The individual will be able to attend the CTT after discharge and indicate areas of need. After discharge the individual will have a series of goals and supports in place to meet those goals. There will also be a back up plan in place if some of those goals cannot or will not be met.

Step 8
Case manager will remain involved for up to 2 years. Case managers will not necessarily provide all the services in the plan directly but rather will broker out some of the services, stay in regular contact with the youth, and monitor the plan. Plans can be renewed/revised several times throughout the 2 year time frame.

Funding
In order to support the offenders, services and resources in the community will be explored and accessed. In addition to these resources there is a flexible fund through Iowa's "Going Home" grant that can be used for needs that cannot be accessed traditionally. This fund can be used in emergencies or as part of the Wraparound plan. An example may be a monthly stipend to supplement income to get the individual on their feet or a down payment on a vehicle to ensure transportation. This fund should help address the gaps that tend to hinder success and promote criminal activity.