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USM juvenile justice report recommends a shift to community-based services for youth ages 14-25

Maine should invest in a continuum of community-based alternatives for youth ages 14 to 25 instead of facilities like Long Creek Youth Development Center, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine School of Law.

The report, "Place Matters: Aligning Investments in a Community-Based Continuum of Care for Maine Youth Transitioning to Adulthood," provides a continuum care model for Maine as well as several recommendations for policymakers.

The report calls on policymakers to work together to advance care and establish mechanisms to provide accountability.

"Place Matters" was authored by USM's Mara Sanchez and Erica King of the Justice Policy Program at USM's Muskie School of Public Service and Jill Ward of the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law at the University of Maine School of Law.

"Roughly three thousand youth in Maine either face homelessness, or will return to communities from out-of-home treatment, confinement or multi-system involvement ranging from days to years," King said. "Decisions that will be made this year and beyond can increase the scope and scale of investments for these youth in a way that builds on the strengths of communities, the best available data, and local expertise."

To inform the recommendations, the report provides examples of community-based programs and names some national models and policy examples from other states as promising for implementation in Maine.

"In 2019 and beyond, Maine policymakers will be faced with decisions about how to best support Maine's youth, families and communities," says Ward. "There is an incredible opportunity to work together across systems and in partnership with local communities to invest in policies and practices that will make our communities stronger, safer and better able to effectively respond to individual youth and family needs."

The report also supports restoring the Children's Cabinet, something Gov. Janet Mills has committed to do in the new administration.

"A governance structure like the Children's Cabinet would be a huge step towards supporting the successful implementation of a continuum of care for older, vulnerable youth," Sanchez said. "Youth outcomes are not the responsibility of one system or organization. Everyone must get in the same boat and row in the same direction."

The report is the first in a planned series of reports planned by the Justice Policy Program that will map where assets currently exist to serve youth transitioning to adulthood and where opportunities for investment lie across the state, as well as examine how place-based forces shape youth outcomes in Maine.

More information about the Place Matters project is available here.