Spearheaded by Newport District Court and Family Division Judge Bruce Cardello, with guidance from Kevin Warwick, founder of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., the State Juvenile Justice Coordinating Committee applied for and was awarded a grant to start the Family & Youth Intervention Program or FYIP in Sullivan County. The program, aimed at reducing residential placement of juveniles is the first of its kind in New Hampshire, and after only a few months, has already proven to be quite successful.
The program targets not only the juvenile but improving the functionality of the juveniles' family. Once accepted into the program, the families waive partial confidentiality in order to attend the mandatory group counseling sessions and group court hearings. The hope is that the juveniles will see their parents attending the sessions and changing some of their own behaviors, which in turn will make them want to change.
Interaction with FYIP families is more intensive than a traditional juvenile case. In addition to unannounced visits, Jen Ruescher, the Juvenile Probation and Parole Officer who is assigned to the program, closely monitors each juveniles curfew, behavior, attendance and grades at school. Sarah Ballou, Case Manager for Child and Family Services in Claremont coordinates mandatory weekly counseling sessions that contains both a parenting group session and an adolescent group session. The families then come together at the end for the very popular complimentary pizza dinner aimed at building a collaboration and community feeling between the families in the program.
A report containing updates on both the probation aspect and the counseling aspect of each case is submitted by Sarah Ballou and Jen Ruescher to Judge Cardello and all relevant parties in preparation for the monthly court session. All of the families attend the mandatory court session together at which time each family takes a turn in front of the Judge where his or her progress and/or the problems for that month are reviewed . Judge Cardello then makes comments and orders relevant to each family. By attending Court together the hope is that the families will benefit from hearing about each others experiences and learn from one another in a supportive way.
At its inception, the program had three families and after only a few months has increased to five. The program is a group effort between the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Juvenile Justice Services, Child and Family Services, and the Newport Family Division.