Recidivism Rates Drop 21 Percent For Juveniles In Family Solutions Project

September 18, 1997

ATHENS, Ga. -- A program that combines first-time juvenile offenders, their parents and siblings with counselors has shown a 21 percent decrease in recidivism rates when compared with juveniles who didn't complete the program.

Bill Quinn, a professor in the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, will present his findings on the Family Solutions Project Sept. 19, at the annual American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy conference in Atlanta. His talk will begin at 10:45 a.m.

"By catching the kids early, before they've developed a negative identity of themselves, we're able to help them decide to develop new peer groups," said Quinn, who began the program five years ago. "We use the youth's support system -- family and peers -- to emphasize problem-solving skills, decision making and communication."

First offenders who are given the opportunity to join the Family Solutions Program must attend nine out of 10 sessions with at least one parent in order to successfully complete the requirements of their probation, or be referred back to Juvenile Court for further assessment.

Each session generally includes eight families, with most of the juvenile offenders between 10 and 15 years of age, Quinn said.

"We require that one parent and the child attend, but we have had other adults also attend and we've had both older and younger siblings participate throughout the 10 weeks," he added.

The program has been used in Athens-Clarke County for the past six years, and has recently expanded to Jackson and Barrow counties. It is being funded by the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court, the Georgia Juvenile Court Judges Association and the Georgia and U.S. Juvenile Justice Departments.

"In addition to being beneficial, this also is a highly cost-effective program," Quinn said. "We generally have two group leaders working with eight to 10 families. We also can include facilitators who are students in the college's child and family development."

Participating families also play a key role in the program by serving as resources and support for each other.

Since the program began in 1992, more than 200 first-offenders have successfully completed the program.

Quinn noted that even among FSP graduates who committed additional offenses, there are better results than the outcomes for re-offenders who did not complete the program.

"Re-offense also waned over time among FSP graduates compared with non-graduates," he said. "A graduate might break the law soon after completing FSP, but it appears that the positive changes continue to outweigh the negatives and as time passes, it's less likely for the graduate to break more laws."

-30-

University of Georgia

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