Smaller is Better: The Missouri Approach

December 22, 2014

Screenshot 2014-12-19 09.58.06Missouri closed its juvenile justice youth development centers/training schools 30 years ago, resulting in consistently better outcomes than other states. The more solutions and treatment-based, positive approach includes:

  • Replacing large institutions with smaller group homes, camps and treatment facilities;
  • Maintaining safety through relationships and “eyes-on” supervision rather use of hardware secure buildings and isolation;
  • Intensive youth development by dedicated specialists rather than correctional supervision by guards.

Youth in the juvenile justice system have higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder, exposure to violence and other toxic stress reinforcing the need for a treatment orientation. A 2010 Annie E. Casey Foundation examination of the Missouri Approach reported no youth had died from suicide in more than 25 years since beginning a more therapeutic approach.

Work remains for Missouri and every state to narrow the pipeline of youth entering the system and to provide the targeted and evidence-based supports to help young people succeed in their families and communities.

More information on the Missouri Approach is available through The Missouri Approach, Division of Youth Services

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