An innovative London scheme to place young offenders in foster care, not prison, is being launched by leading children’s charity NCH. In 2003 around 69 per cent of young people aged 10 to 17(*) were reconvicted after leaving custody signalling the need for a credible alternative to prevent young people from re-offending.
This intensive fostering scheme, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB), is run by NCH Broad Options and will help youngsters from across the capital who are facing a custodial sentence. From court, the young person is placed with experienced, fully trained foster carers for up to one year. It is one of only three pilot schemes in the country which aims to rehabilitate young people more effectively than a custodial sentence by:
Elaine Peace, UK Director for Children’s Services in the South, says: “Prison rarely works and often just opens a revolving door for young offenders. Intensive fostering can change the behaviour of these young people forever. “It’s not an easy option for these young people, serious demands and expectations are set and if they don’t comply custody is the final consequence. But when it works the changes in young people are inspiring and permanent – a better outcome for everyone, especially the young person who now has a much brighter future ahead.”
Mary Wyman, YJB Head of Service Development, said: “We welcome NCH’s experience to this innovative project. The YJB is committed to reducing re-offending by young people. Research suggests that consistent and targeted support can offer real opportunities for change for young people and address the causes of their anti social and criminal behaviour. Offering young people the support they need to stop re-offending is the best route forward for them and, importantly, for victims and communities.”
Three young people have already successfully completed the programme, including 16-year-old Darren who completed intensive fostering with NCH’s Wessex Community Project in March. As well as closely working with his foster carer Darren was supported by a whole team including a skills worker who introduced him to new activities that encouraged positive social skills, such as golf and the army cadets. This innovative approach was first developed in the USA at the Oregon Social Leaning Centre and has had 20 years of researched and evidenced success with young offenders.
The pilot scheme is being evaluated by a research team from the University of York and will inform the further use of intensive fostering with young offenders throughout the country.
(*)Juvenile reconviction: results from the 2003 cohort
Source – NCH
7 June 2006