The G.I.R.L.S. (Gaining Independence and Reclaiming Lives Successfully) Program is based on gender-responsive principles and the restorative justice philosophy, that centers on the belief in blending accountability and treatment to repair harm done and to heal personal and interpersonal relationships while forming positive connections with the larger community. Gender-responsiveness is the idea that our girls commit crimes for different reasons than boys, therefore if we can address those issues we can reduce their criminal risk. Gender-responsive interventions address such issues such as abuse, violence, family relationships, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. They are implemented with a strength-based approach.
Referrals to the G.I.R.L.S. Program are made at the pre-trial and dispositional hearing stages. Referrals are initially screened through the Resource Review Board (RRB) in conjunction with an alcohol and other drug assessment. The G.I.R.L.S. program is a three phase program with phase I beginning in custody. Deputy Probation Officers supervise youth in phases II & III in the community after they have completed the first phase in the Youth Service Center. Our staff is well-trained in gender-responsive interventions such as “Girls Circle” and “Voices” as well as motivational interviewing techniques.
We work collaboratively with various community partners dedicated to providing gender-responsive treatment. The Art of Yoga Project, StarVista and Rape Trauma Services provide needed services to the girls in the community, as well as when they are at the Youth Services Center.
The girls that enter the program have a host of issues, specifically trauma related and substance abuse issues. They vary in age from 13 to 18 years old and come from all through out the county.
The girls learn consequential thinking through cognitive skills training and being held accountable by the courts. Independent Living Skills is another set of skills that we provide our girls with, so that they are prepared to re-enter their communities.
We stress family reunification in that we hope to bring families back together, stronger than they were before. We host events that promote positive family interactions such as our annual rafting trip, ropes course, and Barbeques.
We believe our adolescent girls are valuable and worthy of our community's support. We provide sustainable resources and programs that promote the process of healing, educating, and empowering each girl to achieve her greatest potential in her community.
In response to a growing need for female gender-responsive services in the late 1990s, in 2001 the Probation Department launched the G.I.R.L.S. program (Gaining Independence and Reclaiming Lives Successfully). The program involves three stages: an individualized, 180-day residential program and two community-based supervision phases.
Probation and community-based organizations provide multiple gender-responsive services through all three stages according to a girl’s individual service plan. The GIRLS program was modeled on successful evidence-based programs and best practices in reducing recidivism and increasing positive outcomes for girls. In particular, staff at the GIRLS Program embrace the National Institute of Corrections guiding principles for women's corrections programs:
- To create an environment based on safety, respect, and dignity
- To develop policies, practices, and programs that are relational and promote healthy connections to children, family, significant others, and the community;
- To address substance abuse, trauma, and mental health issues through comprehensive, integrated, and culturally-relevant services.
In December 2006, the residential phase of the program transitioned from Hillcrest Juvenile Hall to the new Margaret J Kemp Camp 30-bed facility. After almost five years in this facility, we were serving a very low number of girls in this program and were forced to move the program into the Youth Services Center, where programming continues much as it did in the Camp.
When a girl has committed one or more criminal offenses, a judge can order her to a 180-day stay at the YSC GIRLS Program. The girls in the program have backgrounds that include one or more of the following characteristics:
- Recidivism and re-arrest
- Repeated probation violations
- Multiple runaways from home or placements
- Substance abuse
- Victimization (child abuse or neglect, domestic violence in the home or in a relationship, trauma)
- Chronic truancy
- Emotional issues or mental health diagnoses
- Negative peer relationships or gang affiliation
- Anti-social behavior
The GIRLS Program offers a number of special services:
- The Art of Yoga (yoga practice and art projects, four times per week)
- Girls Circle (a relationship-based communication model that includes group sharing and problem-solving)
- Alcoholics Anonymous (on site)
- Play writing (conducted by community-based provider Each One Reach One )
- Field trips
- Book club
A girl’s experience in the GIRLS Program is structured around the Journeys program. When they arrive girls are given a multi-colored workbook to help them track their progress and to serve as a personal record of their achievements. The Passport is designed to organize a girl’s development through goal-setting and to allow staff to give tangible reinforcement of positive and pro-social behavior. To learn more about the Journeys program, please read the program description.
Behavioral Health Services
Behavioral Health programming includes:
- Comprehensive assessment and case planning
- Multi-Family Group, a 16-week Saturday program that engages parents, caregivers, and girls in improving their relationships
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Family therapy
A girl can receive counseling and therapy on a number of issues, depending on her needs as identified in her case plan:
- Anger management
- Impulse control
- Communication skills
- Healthy relationships
- Body image and self-care strategies
- Nutrition and healthy eating
- Safe sex and HIV
- Grief and loss
- Domestic violence and teen dating
- Transition to the community
Other County agencies collaborate with the Probation Department to provide education, food and health services at the Camp. Mental health services are offered through a partnership of the County's Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, StarVista, The Art of Yoga Project, and Rape Trauma Services.