This grant will be in partnership with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded New York University researchers Shabnam Javdani and Erin Godfrey $2,919,888 over the next five years to implement and evaluate staff training and coaching to promote the safety of incarcerated youth within New York City’s juvenile justice system.

This grant will be in partnership with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and comes as a response to the increased public health threat that trauma and violence – in all of its manifestations – poses to system-involved youth.

“Youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years old are more likely to die by suicide than by cancer, illness, or heart disease combined. This number is even higher for the nearly two million youth incarcerated in the U.S. juvenile justice system,” said Erin Godfrey, one of the project’s co-principal investigators and associate professor of applied psychology at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

The goal of the grant-funded collaboration is to increase the capacity of ACS to ensure youth’s right to safety and their access to safe and responsive contexts that promote youth health and well-being. “We need to implement and test strategies that help staff respond to youth needs and experiences in a safety-promoting way. This is more important than ever given that the juvenile justice population in NYC is likely to increase due to recently-passed state legislation raising the age youth can be treated as adults in the criminal justice system,” continued Godfrey.

The study will target all front-line ACS staff members working in non-secure placement facilities in New York City and providers of post-release care with additional training and coaching to support their work with system-involved youth.

The staff training will be developed in collaboration with ACS and their Workforce Institute and take place as part of ACS’s standard procedures. The training will include evidence-based knowledge and skills in suicide detection and prevention to enable staff to respond to acute instances of youth crisis. It will also provide staff with concrete tools, informed by dialectical behavior therapy and positive youth development perspectives, to effectively respond to a range of youth needs and experiences.

Co-principal investigators Javdani and Godfrey will test how effective the training is at promoting the health, mental health, resilience and perceived safety of youth during their confinement in placement facilities and the post-release aftercare period. It will also test whether youth outcomes are improved if trained staff are paired with a coach to support their use of the skills and principles they learned. The study will also examine how characteristics of placement facilities and staff themselves influence how training skills and principles are implemented with youth and the effectiveness of the intervention in improving youth outcomes, with the goal of informing ACS’ long-term strategy to promote the professional development of their staff and the health and safety of the youth in their care.

“The incredible long term potential of this project lies in the opportunities it creates to support the juvenile justice workforce in ways that promote youth safety, center youth rights, and ultimately reduce reliance on youth confinement altogether” said Shabnam Javdani, the project’s co-principal investigator and assistant professor of applied psychology at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

“This partnership will help to ensure that young people in our juvenile detention system continue to receive quality services and support that are responsive to their needs,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “With this funding our Youth Development Specialists and other front-line staff will learn new strategies to address the unique challenges that youth in detention face in safe, positive ways.”

The grant will be administered and managed by NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change (IHDSC). In addition to NYU-related resources, the project will leverage extant resources from NYC’s ACS.

The corresponding grant number is 1R01MH114937-01A1.

About NYU’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change
The Institute of Human Development and Social Change is the largest interdisciplinary institute on New York University’s Washington Square campus. The Institute, a joint initiative of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, Wagner School of Public Service, Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Office of the Provost, aims to break new ground through support for rigorous research and training across social, behavioral, educational, policy, and health sciences. Learn more about IHDSC at https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/ihdsc/.

About the New York City Administration for Children’s Services
The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) protects and promotes safety and well-being of New York City’s children and families by providing child welfare, juvenile justice, and early care and education services. For more information, please visit: www.nyc.gov/acs.