Diverting Youth at Probation Intake: The Front-End Diversion Initiative
Published Apr 8, 2015, Erin Espinosa, Ph.D., Kathleen R. Skowyra
This Research and Program Brief describes the Front End Diversion Initiative, which is a probation-intake based diversion program for youth with specific mental health conditions that grew out of the MHJJ Action Network.
In 2008, the Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Action Network (MHJJAN), a component of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, targeted “front-end, pre-adjudication diversion” as its first area of focus. The goal was to develop opportunities and identify strategies to divert youth with mental health needs from juvenile justice system processing. Texas, one of the eight states participating in the MHJJAN, chose to concentrate on the use of specialized juvenile probation officers at the point of intake to divert youth with suspected mental health needs by connecting them and their families to community resources. Known as the Front-End Diversion Initiative (FEDI), this effort was seeded with funding from Models for Change and involved four local juvenile probation departments in Texas. Preliminary data suggest that FEDI has increased access to needed mental health services while reducing further involvement in the juvenile justice system.