I am a long-time advocate for how the power of neuroscience can transform the youth-serving profession. When combined with a commitment to putting the needs of youth first and a sizable dose of courageous leadership, the insights and practical guidance provided by brain research can have remarkable results. A prominent example of the transformational application of this “secret recipe” can be found at the Sacramento County (California) Youth Detention Facility (YDF).
In 2010, Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility was operating on a point system also known as a “token economy.” It was not working. The YDF culture in the 400-bed facility was grounded on long-established practices that were more punitive than rehabilitative in their design.
Youth injuries were a concern, staff morale was low and trauma-informed care conspicuously absent. Room confinement and extended periods of isolation were often the norm. Worker’s compensation claims were high. Additionally, the facility was under a court-ordered consent decree to change. But change to what?
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