Archive for the Newsletter Category

October 2018 Newsletter

October 2018 Newsletter

SFY in the News!

Strategies for Youth has been in the news lately with columns we have written printed in The Hill, USA Today and Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Our piece on how police training might have avoided the death of 15 year old Jordan Edwards in Dallas met with positive feedback; our article on research about the psychological impacts of police shootings of unarmed blacks drew criticism.

Please check out the articles—and the kinds of responses they provoke—to understand the challenges to improving police/youth relations in the U.S.

An Avoidable Murder: Better Training for Policing Teenagers

The Hill,

Comment: “Thank you for writing this detailed and extensive article on one of the most pressing problems in our world today…We need to support our police through a focus on training programs that teach officers how to police youth and not just criticize police for what is sure to come from doing nothing but placing the burden on them. The youth of today are the future of tomorrow, so let us plan ahead and train ahead.”

Read the Article »


Police Killings, Brutality Damaging Mental Health of Black Community

USA Today, 09/15/18

Comment: “Nationwide police should opt out of dealing with these areas that are so anti-police and believe they are biased and intent on harming them (for trying to do their job). Everyone will be happy then.”

Read the Article »


Using Tasers on Youth Inspires a Shocking Lack of Action

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 10/22/18

Comment: “In a day and age when ‘trauma-informed practice’ is becoming standard for anyone who works with children, it is alarming to see how out-of-step standards and practices are for police who interact with children. Strategies for Youth’s research makes the case for states to ensure children aren’t subjected to such brutally harmful practices.”

Read the Article »

August 2018 Newsletter

August 2018 Newsletter

Summer Interns Share Their Experiences at SFY

Dear Friends:

Each year Strategies for Youth welcomes interns to work with us on special projects, observe our Jeopardy games and Policing the Teen Brain trainings, and conduct research for us on trends that are surfacing. This summer we were pleased to welcome interns from Northeastern Law School, Boston College, and Boston University.

SFY benefits from each group of summer interns. This year was no different—thanks to the work of George, Kate and Yacine, we have ways of presenting materials, new research to share at our trainings, and valuable insights about how young people see the world today.

We hope you will take a moment and read each of their short essays.

Lisa Thurau
Executive Director



Yacine SarrLooking at the Effects Trauma and Mental Health Issues on Youth

Yacine Sarr

Over the course of my summer at Strategies for Youth, I have had the opportunity to gain knowledge about a variety of subjects that I found myself to be previously somewhat in the dark about. I gained general knowledge about the juvenile criminal justice system, and learned more about policing policies and practices towards youth in schools and on the streets. The severe injustices that so often stem from these simple practices are far too common, and while seemingly easily changeable, are part of a widespread system that makes it very complicated for change to happen.

Of all of the things that I have learned and experienced throughout my ten weeks here, I would say that some of the most impactful things have been the information about trauma and mental health, and how it so often leads people to become prematurely involved in the criminal justice system when all they may have truly needed is help in addressing their issues.

Some of the most impactful personal stories of trauma I heard during my experiences with SFY this summer were actually from personal stories that I had the opportunity of hearing at a Citizens for Juvenile Justice event I attended (Behavioral Health Support for DCF-Involved Youth to Prevent Acute Interventions). While many people shared their stories, the one I found to be the most impactful was that of Commissioner William Morales from Boston Centers for Youth and Families.

He explained to us how his childhood was filled with trauma. He grew up in a neighborhood riddled with violence. His father was a heroin addict, and at a young age he was even buying heroin for his father. He witnessed his uncle shot and killed in front of him.

Like so many youth in underprivileged neighborhoods, William had no access to resources to help him cope with the traumas he experienced. So as many traumatized youth do, he began acting out. He reached the point where he wound up in the hospital after getting stabbed, and then a ten-year prison sentence. Thankfully, William was able to turn his life around, but so many young people like him are simply not given this chance.

This is a sad reality that thankfully, organizations such as Strategies for Youth are trying to address. There is simply no need for traumatized youth to become involved in the criminal justice system for reasons that are so out of their control. What they truly need is treatment and resources that can aid them in appropriate ways so that they are not forced to cope with them with the harmful methods that so many become driven to.

I think ultimately what this experience has opened my eyes to was just how interconnected these systems are. Previously I thought of things like the criminal justice system and health care or mental health services as completely separate institutions that targeted people who were having trouble in specific areas of their lives, but in reality it seems that all of these systems and problems people are intertwined.

It is a sad reality that so often youth become involved in the criminal justice system when all they may have really needed is help in some other aspect of their life, or the recognition by a police officer that their behavior was motivated not as much by a desire to rebel or stand up against authority, but rather an outlet of whatever strains they have been experiencing in their lives. Having first responders trained to recognize a variety of behavioral warning signs can be extremely beneficial to providing appropriate resources to people affected by these issues.

Additionally, I found my internship helped me narrow down the career opportunities that I have been considering pursuing. I found that doing all this research about the effects of trauma and developmental psychology, has really solidified my interest in mental health. I’ve always had an interest in helping people, and I think helping those affected with mental health issues navigate the various aspects of their lives these issues may affect is something that would help many people and something I would find very rewarding.

I have begun considering pursuing a master’s degree in social work and potentially becoming a clinical social worker. Hopefully in doing this, I will be able to help people before they become involved in the criminal justice system, or help them navigate what to do if they have. Ultimately, my experience at SFY was extremely eye opening and helped me gain a variety of knowledge that I was unaware that I was lacking.



Kate SuretteResearching Disproportionate Minority Contact

Kate Surette

During this internship I have been able to learn so much about the Juvenile Justice system. Through my research project and the events I attended, I was exposed to profound issues within our justice system.

I started this internship with a weak understanding of the issues of incarceration in our country based on what I had learned in college. My major project at SFY was researching disproportionate minority contact (DMC) within the juvenile justice system, to create a document for distribution at SFY’s police trainings. This is the concept that minority youth groups, African Americans in particular, find themselves coming in contact with the juvenile justice system more often and with harsher treatment than white youth. Doing research on this topic was incredibly eye-opening for me and also really disappointing.

As I sorted through all the data on DMC I learned how often black youth are treated unjustly. It is important to recognize this and address this at the level of officers and their training. Officers should not have a biased view going into an interaction with a youth, based on their race. Training can help officers be aware and hopefully not act on this form of bias. From what I learned, one of the most important intervention tactics is for officers to create relationships with the youth in their community. Often the minority group communities have a much higher police presence than white neighborhoods. This feeds into DMC; while kids act in the same manner throughout neighborhoods, the minority neighborhoods are the ones with the greater police presence to punish them.

One of the best learning experiences had was at an event presented by Citizens for Juvenile Justice I attended with my fellow interns. During this event individuals spoke on mental health issues and trauma for youth and how this increases their involvement in the justice system. Two of the speakers shared stories about their childhood experiences of violence and trauma at home and how it led to either direct involvement in the juvenile justice system or a tainted view of their own capabilities. It was great to see how individuals with traumatic upbringings were making such a difference in lives of other kids now. The data presented at this event astounded me. I had not realized how many youth with mental health issues are displaced and incarcerated. When I put this in context of the US incarceration rates compared to other developed nations, I learned how much desperately needs change in this country.

One of the most unfortunate things I observed during my internship was a video of an autistic boy being tackled by a police officer who was very quick to use excessive force. This video really struck me because of how innocent and openly scared the boy was. The police officer asked the boy what he was doing and the boy said “I’m stimming.” Stimming is a common symptom of autism. Instead of trying to understand this unarmed boy, the officer put the boy’s hands behind his back and talked him, with the officer on top of the boy, so he couldn’t move. This disgusted and saddened me. It made me realize how much officer training is essential in the case of mental illnesses as well as just improving the overall relationship between youth and law.

Our country has disproportionate high incarceration rate. Fixing how officers and youth interact will help keep youth out of the “justice” system. Police officers should be mentors and helpful adults in the lives of all youth, regardless of race. Instead this relationship is one of fear rather than comfort and protection. This must change.
So far, this internship has been eye opening. The work of Strategies for Youth is crucial in training officers to create better relationships and help youth to the right path.



George CarayannopoulosInvestigating the Law and Statistics of Juvenile Justice

George Carayannopoulos

I learned a tremendous amount during my time at Strategies for Youth (SFY). When I first started I was assigned to review laws surrounding custodial interrogations of youth in different parts of the country. In my review there were times where the laws along with court decisions were so appalling that they really demonstrated how organizations like SFY play a vital role in protecting youth.

For another project, I looked at Statistics on rates of suspension, expulsion and arrest of students covered by the individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) using the U.S. Education Officer of Civil Rights data. As a youth, I was a student in special education programs at public schools, and experienced first-hand some of the struggles that others have gone through, too. As I reviewed the data for one of the counties where SFY was offering the Policing the Teen Brain in School training, I saw clear disparities in disciplinary treatment and arrests between the IDEA students and non-IDEA students. The IDEA students were receiving roughly three times the amount of out of school suspensions compared to the non-IDEA students nationally. While researching this information I also saw first-hand how poorly data collection by the public school system are not being enforced at all and I was made aware of this when attempting to research arrest data surrounding IDEA students.

One of the most eye-opening experiences I had at SFY was analyzing pre/post training surveys of officers who attended SFY’s Policing the Teen Brain trainings. These surveys made me look at police in a different light. I always try my best to see the good in people and in the world in general, which is not the easiest task when you encounter statistical evidence to the contrary. When I looked at police prior to my co-op at SFY I had taken the position that police are not inherently bad people. Most are hardworking people with the general public interest at heart, while they make mistakes the majority of law enforcement are doing their best. What had always bothered me is the feeling that things are either not going to change or everything is changing to slowly because the way that culture seemed almost as if law enforcement is just sent in their ways.

What these surveys opened my eyes to was how I was just plain wrong. The officers that gave feedback showed that they were earnestly trying to improve themselves at their job and were more than aware things need to change in policing youth. They look at the glaring problems they face and try to develop solutions to help solve them.

Another great experience at SFY was observing the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game being played with youth. This was an area of SFY that I was really curious about because as I had mentioned I am very interested in education and was curious how this game would be received by youth. I did not know what to expect, but when I watched the game being played it was clear the youth who participated were really getting into it and were interested in learning more about the laws and their rights.

Youth had a considerable amount of questions asking for more information surrounding the Jeopardy questions, and questions related to the subject matter that was being presented. I also observed that youth did not know as much as they thought they knew. There were definitely times where youth contested some answers but when the game leader explained to them how the legal system actually works the youth were always interested and were thankful for the information.

June 2018 Newsletter

June 2018 Newsletter

Strategies For Youth turns 8 this month!

Strategies for Youth sprang to life in 2010, with a sense of urgency and conviction that our programs would change lives. On a scant $22,000 budget, in donated office space and with a volunteer staff, we held our first trainings in 2 states.

The intervening 8 years have brought many changes. We’ve outgrown two offices. Our staff includes 3 full-time, 5 part-time employees, as well as volunteers. Our budget, now closer to $850,000, has allowed us to extend our impact to 18 states!

Our sense of urgency and conviction has been strengthened by the results we see: lower youth arrest rates for minor offenses, reduced disproportionate minority contact, improved interactions with police, and more equitable results.

Join us in celebrating these remarkable achievements:

  • Trainings in 250 communities in 18 states;
  • Creating 3 versions of our Policing the Teen Brain training so law enforcement officers and educators better understand how to apply developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed, equitable practices for policing youth;
  • Supporting law enforcement agencies with comprehensive policies and practices;
  • Building youths’ confidence and knowledge for navigating interactions with police and peers through over 180 versions of the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy games;
  • Offering Think About It First! cards in 10 states;
  • Publishing 4 major reports showing the need for national training and policies to guide police/youth interactions.

Oh, the places we could go!

The only thing constraining us is resources. Please help us celebrate our impacts with a gift today.


With much thanks and gratitude,

Lisa H. Thurau,
Executive Director

April 2018 Newsletter

April 2018 Newsletter

A Quiz and Our Spring Fundraiser


We Want to Hear From You!

Spring is in the air and we are thinking about new ways to improve. For years we have been telling you about Strategies for Youth.

Now we would like to hear from you.

Test your SFY knowledge by taking a short quiz. Survey Monkey assures us it won’t take any longer than 3 minutes of your time. The quiz answers will be provided at the end. Your feedback will help us focus our newsletter content in the future.

We looking forward to hearing from you and crafting e-newsletters that continue to answer your questions.


Help decrease the violent interactions between police officers and youth by supporting Strategies for Youth’s results-oriented community outreach programs.

Strategies for Youth is a policy and training organization dedicated to improving police/youth interactions through community engagement, police training, outreach programs for youth, and proactive use of multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solve and build relationships between police and youth.

Our Signature Programs Include:

Law Enforcement Training — Policing the Teen Brain trainings provide officers customized, intensive training on developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed, equitable approaches to interacting with youth.

Policy Review and Advocacy — On-site evaluation of department practices, policies, and procedures to improve best practices to conform with new laws and regulations, and encourages law enforcement leaders to engage in vision-casting and reform efforts.

Juvenile Justice Jeopardy Game — This fun interactive game teaches youth about the legal consequences of their actions, the damaging impact their choices can have on their future, and how to interact appropriately with law enforcement. Each game is customized to local jurisdictions and state law, and can be presented to youth in after school programs, detention centers, community centers, and schools.

SFY’s Dual Approach Has Proven Results

  • Reduction in juvenile arrests of up to 84% in schools and 65% in communities.
  • Reduction in escalated interactions between police officers and youth.

SFY Promotes Public Safety In Over 250 Communities

California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.

None of this would be possible without the generous support of our donors. Help SFY continue its mission to improve police-youth interactions and promote public safety across the nation.

Strategies for Youth is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
All donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Your support allows us to: train officers, educated youths in after-school programs and detention centers, and engage with at-risk youth.

Strategies For Youth Is Unique

No other national organization exists solely for the purpose of improving police/youth interactions, advancing the cause of training public safety officers in the science of child and youth development and mental health, and supporting communities partnering to promote strong police/youth relationships. With your donation, SFY can continue its efforts across the country.

With much thanks and gratitude,

Lisa H. Thurau,
Executive Director


“Over and over, our trainers, partners, and donors, tell us about how Strategies for Youth has played a critical role in improving local interactions between youth and law enforcement. Some even describe it like a light bulb turning on.”
—Lisa Thurau, Executive Director


February 2018 Newsletter

February 2018 Newsletter

Inroads In Idaho and Baltimore …
and a Mascot for SFY!



SFY Brings Police Training to Idaho

Strategies for Youth had the pleasure of working with the Idaho State Advisory Group (SAG) to provide Policing the Teen Brain™ trainings to law enforcement officers across the state.

Chelsea Newton, Program Specialist for the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction (IDJC), coordinated the trainings which were presented to officers in Boise, Pocatello, Sandpoint and Lewiston, Idaho. Some juvenile detention officers and school officials attended the trainings, as well. In total, over 140 people were trained throughout the state.

“Officers who attended the training stated the information they learned was very valuable,” said Newton. “Officers said they have applied what they learned while interacting with youth in their community, and they have already seen positive results.”

“SFY’s evaluation results showed that officers were grateful for the practical skills the training provided when interacting with youth,” said David Walker, SFY’s Director of Training.

SFY provided “Train-the-Trainer” trainings to build the state’s capacity to offer Policing the Teen Brain™ independently with local psychologists and officers presenting, respectively Day 1 and Day 2 of the training.

Next steps: The IDJC is planning to bring the training next to at least two more communities in hopes of training officers from all districts in the state.



SFY Discovers It’s Mascot

This winter, while searching for a recipe that would resemble my grandfather’s almond cookies, I came across a recipe for the “amygdalota.”

At SFY, we often speak of the amygdala during the Policing the Teen Brain™ trainings. Amygdala, the Greek word for “almond” is one of the most primitive parts of the brain, often referred to as the emotional center of the brain responsible for fight, flight, and freeze responses. During adolescence, the amygdala often acts like the brain’s accelerator, as the slower maturing frontal lobe plays the role of the brake.

Amygdalota cookies are sweet, they’re crunchy, they’re airy. True to its name, you will find that it’s very easy to ignore any brake on your desire to eat an entire batch.



JJJ Goes to Baltimore

What happens if you bring a game to a city and everyone wants to play? You celebrate!

Never in SFY’s history have we received the kind of excited welcome we received in Baltimore!

Thanks to Jerrell Bratcher’s outreach and organizing, over 100 people in Baltimore participated in SFY’s trainings to become Juvenile Justice Jeopardy™ game leaders: Bratcher, a member of the John Hopkins University Black Faculty Staff Association, who volunteered his time and community connections, made the trainings a success.

SFY returned in January to present the game to members of the juvenile court, the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, and counselors at Humanim.

“This game fills a gap,” said Jerrell Bratcher. “Juvenile Justice Jeopardy™ is loved because kids don’t feel lectured or threatened. They come out feeling empowered because they get to voice their opinions and ask questions.”

“Everyone is looking for a mechanism to engage kids when talking about how to interact with the police and with friends. I think once the folks saw how involved the kids were, they were sold on it.” said Sharon Bucknor, a manager for the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks

“Parents should play this game, too,” said a parent attending the game leader training. “It’s a very interactive tool. Everyone who engages in the game can learn something…”

When the game was piloted with youth on probation, a probation officer noted that the group discussion brings about “an understanding, more tolerance, an opportunity to agree to disagree and remember that the facts and laws are what they are.”

October 2017 Newsletter

October 2017 Newsletter

New Tools and Resources

Dear Friends:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been battered by the onslaught of bad news this fall: hurricanes, fires, shootings, political unrest. As an antidote to all the bad news, SFY is pleased to announce the release of new resources to provide you with support and to help you navigate some challenges that youth and officers face.

We encourage you to check out these resources, share them with others, and send us your feedback.

Lisa Thurau
Executive Director



A New Tool for Back to School

SFY has created a new tool, The Parent Checklist, for parents, advocates, schools and school resource officers to clarify the relationship between school-based law enforcement and students. The Parent Checklist has just been updated and re-issued to address questions about youth with disabilities and youth with undetermined immigration status. Please share it!

The response to the Checklist has been exciting.  “I can’t even answer all these questions,” wrote one SRO. “I better do my homework.”  One youth advocate reported, “We’ve been using the Checklist and already see an impact—the school has published the memorandum of understanding on the website and now we know how much is being spent on SROs.”

And consider using Be Her Resource: A Toolkit About School Resource Officers and Girls of Color  published by the National Black Women’s Justice Institute and the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality.  This toolkit gives parents, advocates, and others resources to address the exploding disparities in use of school-based arrests for girls of color.  Like SFY, this Toolkit recommends training for SROs to learn both developmentally appropriate approaches to youth and how they intersect with gender issues.



Juvenile Justice Jeopardy All Across America

SFY has hired a new Juvenile Justice Director and Staff Attorney,
James I. Durodola. James has spent over 10 years as a defender for youth and adults in Massachusetts and North Carolina. At SFY, James has hit the ground running, playing Jeopardy for the NBA Full Court Press clinics with 65 youth in Springfield, MA, and 160 youth in Oklahoma City, OK. The next game with the NBA is in Tampa…James is otherwise busy creating new games for sites in California, Indiana and Massachusetts!


Explaining Trauma to Officers & Youth

Thanks to the work of two Forest Foundation interns this past summer, Frances Snellings and Hannah Stenberg, SFY has a new information sheet for our Policing the Teen Brain trainings. Law enforcement officers are not trained in recognizing trauma or responding to it in ways the reduce escalation of minor offenses. This is a major topic in SFY’s Policing the Teen Brain trainings.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) causing trauma are a significant predictor for youth involvement in the juvenile justice system; indeed, in a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 70% of incarcerated youth had been victims of violence or witnessed it. Yet, as a country, few systems teach youth how to understand trauma’s impacts. To address this, SFY has created a special version of Juvenile Justice Jeopardy that uses the game to teach youth about trauma, its physical and psychological impacts, and techniques for reducing anxiety and recognizing traumatized responses in their interactions with others. Interested? Give us a call—we are looking for folks to pilot the new game.


August 2017 Newsletter

August 2017 Newsletter

SFY Summer Interns Reflect on Summer Projects

Dear Friends:

Every summer, college and law students ask SFY for internships.

This year, we put four college interns to work on topics ranging from developing best practices for policing girls and LGBTQ youth to the impacts of trauma on youth. Our fifth intern, a second year law student at Northeastern University Law School, reviewed current cases and scholarship on Miranda warnings and the use of Tasers on youth. We hope you’ll enjoy reading their reflections here.

Special thanks to the Forest Foundation for funding two of the internships.

Lisa Thurau
Executive Director



The Summer of the Girl

Zoe Rankin & Leigh Yartz

During our second internship with Strategies for Youth we delved into research on the drastic increase in the number of girls arrested and incarcerated. Our work focused on SFY’s The Summer of the Girl. We worked on creating new fact sheets for law enforcement trainings and developing new content for the existing training curriculum on the topic of girls, both of which are trauma-informed and supported by academic research.

The fact sheets on girls’ interactions with police and the juvenile justice system were developed for the SFY Policing the Teen Brain. Part of the reason for this is the increase in the number of girls arrested and incarcerated, the racial disparity in arrests, and the recently named “sex abuse to prison” pipeline. Through this research, I (Leigh) learned that often the crimes that girls, and disproportionately girls of color, are arrested and incarcerated for result from their victimization. The “crimes” that girls are charged with most frequently are running away, substance abuse, and truancy—all symptoms of abuse and exposure to trauma. The purpose of the fact sheets is to put girls’ behavior into context, as it is likely that many girls officers encounter are acting out in response to a history of sexual/physical/psychological abuse and trauma.

I learned that it is imperative for officers to understand this dynamic because locking girls up is not a viable solution: the juvenile justice system is unequipped to address the physical and mental health needs of girls who have experienced trauma. Report after report demonstrates that once in the juvenile justice system, there are no-gender specific medical screenings and the conditions of confinement for girls are disturbingly inhumane. With a climbing suicide rate among adolescent girls, it is crucial that officers better understand the context of girls’ behavior and respond by providing services to address their trauma rather than arresting and putting them in a broken, non-rehabilitative system that best succeeds in re-traumatizing girls. It is clear that training and informing officers is a critical step to addressing this growing crisis that young girls are facing.

The second set of fact sheets focused on issues specific to LGBTQ youth. Through this research, I (Zoe) found that LGBTQ youth have an often-challenging path to a healthy and safe life. A study conducted by the Williams Institute found that 46% of homeless youth ran away due to family rejection, 43% were kicked out by their parents and 32% faced violence and abuse at home. Because many LGBTQ youth are not welcome in their homes, they are often forced to live on the streets. The Williams Institute estimated that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Surviving on the streets and being homeless can lead youth to engage in survival crimes which include, engaging in in shoplifting, breaking and entering for shelter, trading sex, selling drugs, or engaging in other illegal activities to survive. This is where law enforcement officers most typically encounter LGBTQ youth.

I learned about the lack of resources for LGBTQ youth in  schools, the juvenile justice system and shelters for homeless youth. Considering the number of homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ, it dismayed me to learn how many shelters are struggling to stay open in cities like New York City and Washington D.C. And shelters are not a perfect solution: many LGBTQ youth feel unsafe in shelters due to their sexuality or gender identity. They face stigma, discrimination and have a heightened risk of abuse and violence. Through education and understanding, my hope is that officers will be able to better serve their communities and this population.

The second part of our work at SFY was developing research on girls to develop a new version of the law enforcement training curriculum, Policing the Teen Brains of Girls. This new training aim to better inform and equip law enforcement officers with the knowledge and information to effectively police girls who have a history of trauma. This means understanding the prevalence of trauma among girls, as well as how to recognize signs of traumatized behaviors and respond to them appropriately.

This research has provided me insight into the lack of support for girls in our legal and education system. Too often young girls and LGBTQ youth are being arrested and incarcerated for their reactions to abuse and trauma, and for committing survival crimes, such as stealing food and clothing, breaking and entering into places to hide from abusers; crimes they commit to stay alive and safe.

We believe that non-violent behavior must not be criminalized if law enforcement is to begin helping these populations. Through training, empowerment, and a trauma-informed approach to these issues we can begin lowering the growing suicide rate among girls and LBGTQ youth, decreasing the homeless population, and alleviating school pushout that is experienced primarily experienced by youth of color. Education on issues unique to girls and LGBTQ youth is essential to begin improving and changing many of the unfortunate disparities that these populations face.



Focusing on Girls & Trauma

Frances Snellings & Hannah Stenberg

As Forest Foundation interns, we enjoyed collaborating on various projects this summer. Our work focused on trauma and how girls are victimized and victimize others. The goal of our research was to develop a two new versions of SFY’s Juvenile Justice Jeopardy—one to help youth understand trauma and one for girls—as well as a fact sheet on trauma for the Policing the Teen Brain trainings.

We spent the beginning of our internship researching trauma to create a fact sheet summarizing the causes, symptoms, and best practices for officers to respond to trauma in youth. Law enforcement disproportionately come into contact with youth who are affected by trauma and PTSD. Our fact sheet identifies sources of trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), including emotional abuse, physical or emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence, and incarceration of a household member. The fact sheet gives officers tactics to recognize traumatized youth and their behavior, as well as how to reduce traumatizing youth by avoiding triggers like loud noises, using a consistent, neutral tone of voice, de-escalation techniques like repeating instructions to youth 3 times to allow the youth to process, and narrative prediction of what will happen next. The volume of trauma research is vast so we focused on distilling the information on what officers most need to know. Eventually, we turned a 15 page document into a 4 and then 2 page fact sheet.

We read Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. The authors explore the harmful phenomenon of adults thinking black girls are less innocent, less in need of protection and nurturing, and are perceived to be older than similarly aged white girls. This process of “adultification” leads to stiffer punishments in school and manifests into a spike in arrests during adolescence. These arrests are typically for status offenses—truancy, missing curfew, speaking out in school, and girl-on-girl fights.

After reading extensively on this topic, we conducted focus groups with girls at Madison Park Development Corp in Roxbury and one at Girls Inc. of Lynn. In order to create an open and comfortable environment for our focus group participants, we felt it was important to start a dialogue with the girls about our own gender and racial identities, and our collective similarities and differences.

These focus groups solidified our previous contention that girls face unique pressures, problems, and cycles of victimization that often catapult them into the juvenile justice system. From our focus groups, we discovered that as social media usage swells, the issues facing girls grow. Specifically, we found that adolescent girls rarely understand their “right to” (or lack thereof) privacy when they use Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram. We also found that social media triggers and agitates already tumultuous relationships—both romantic and platonic, threatening boundaries and trust. Using this aggregate data, and the issues girls described when speaking to us in the focus groups, we created a Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game specific for “The Girl.” This version of the game aims to educate girls on the consequences of their actions—both in person and online—and to generate a conversation around safety, victimizing and being a victim, social media and relationships, trust and police.

We also hope the game sparks dialogue around the negative cycles of bullying, relationship and physical aggression, and competition girls experience , that often germinate over a boy, and wreck any solidarity among them. The game seeks to emphasize the benefits of support and solidarity during times of stress and conflict and aims to have girls ask each other, “Why do we fight instead of support each other?”

We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to engage in such  diverse reading, researching, and writing which we could transform into useful learning materials for law enforcement and youth alike. We look forward to seeing our work in action this coming Fall when SFY will pilot the girls and trauma games in Boston at Madison Park Development Corporation, and use the new trauma fact sheets with officers.

Thank you to SFY and The Forest Foundation for giving us this amazing opportunity to delve into this work—we are very grateful!




Tasers on Youth

Mary Mesele

After completing my first year of law school, I hoped to find an internship that focused on addressing and reforming areas of juvenile law as well as hone my research and writing skills. Interning at Strategies for Youth allowed me to explore police misconduct issues involving youth. I undertook a review of recent cases involving the use of unreasonable and excessive force as well as the use of conducted electronic weapons (CEWs) also known as tasers, on youth.

Additionally, I reviewed and summarized articles on police/youth interactions and policing for SFY’s annotated bibliography page. I especially enjoyed this portion of the internship because I learned so much.  In reviewing the numerous cases and articles, I found that gaps in research on how youth are treated during police interrogations.

What struck me most was research demonstrating how few youth comprehend the role of a defense attorney. These studies indicated that youth do not have a clear understanding of what their defense attorney is meant to do for them. This is especially troubling considering it is more likely that juveniles won’t utilize their right to counsel if they don’t fully grasp how to work with their attorney.

In addition, I discovered the importance of courts acknowledging the developmental and psychological differences between youth and adults. Acknowledging these differences should not only create modifications in the way juveniles are interrogated but also amend mens rea standards courts currently use. Without courts setting precedent, our legal system treat youth in the same manner as adults with fully developed cognitive abilities.  Using a developmentally-appropriate approach provides youth the protection they deserve and requires police officers and other system stakeholders to match their methods to developmental level of the youth they are working with.

Interning at Strategies of Youth made me aware of how partnering with police departments is crucial for fostering positive and constructive improvements to decrease the institutionalized causes of mistreatment of youth. I came to understand that such a partnership encourages police to work with juveniles within the communities they patrol while simultaneously improving relations between the youth and law enforcement.










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