Article written by: Julia Casey
A group of new hires recently assembled into the Community Partners in Action facility in Hamden. The secure therapeutic residential program is designed for boys ages 14 – 18 who are sent here because of their behavioral health needs that make them a risk to public safety. The aim here is prevention – to provide care and wrap around services to our state’s youth so they take the right fork in the road – and stay out of the adult justice system.
During Community Partners new hire orientation, a key topic of discussion was diversity, equity and inclusion and how a talented group of new hires who range in age, experience, education and ethnicity can work together to get our youth on the right track. Many of the new recruits come to CPA with training in mental health and years of youth related work experience, and some with work history with the juvenile system. They all came with a commitment to understanding youth, to become a motivating figure and to use a strengths-based approach.
Vernesa James, Senior Youth Mentor joined Community Partners in Action with 25 years of psychology experience. She first began working with youth after her brother was involved in the justice system. “It may take a while to see the impact you are having, and once you do, you’ll stick with it.”
The conversation on DE&I was led by Jenita Hayes, Thought Partner Solutions who asked participants to share their experiences and how different aspects of their identity might appear contrary. “Ask questions for understanding, not for labeling or stereotyping,” said Hayes. “You want to step back and assess how your intent and impact might differ.
CPA’s Regions Secure Program Manager Frances French is focused on helping youth form positive relationships with adult role models including the recent hires who are eager to teach them new skills. New models of behavior will also be tested in vocational settings including culinary arts, barber classes and forklift simulation. “The goal is for vocational training to prepare program participants for the next phase in life, so youth move forward with greater awareness, and the support services they need to succeed,” said French.