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Healing, Hope and Care: Models for Transforming the Lives of Vulnerable Youth, Part III

By Katrina Mitchell on October 27, 2015

Andrus Family Fund recognizes that in order to really transform vulnerable youth, healing, hope and care must be intrinsic to an organization’s model. We know that this can also be applied to the economic engine that fuels these types of programs and services. Research from the Vera Institute of Justice cites that young men of color who have been victims of crime and violence often do not get the help they need. The traditional victim services model has not yet developed the capacity to address the needs of young men of color in this way. It is critical to devote the financial resources and identify the programmatic practices that best support the healing of our most vulnerable youth.

We’ve seen how this approach can be effective in the work that Common Justice does to shift the paradigm of traditional victim’s services model. We’ve also experienced how programs such as exalt and RYSE have positive youth development at their core when working with older youth. Now, in the third part of the series we will explore what happens when an alternative-to-incarceration program incorporates healing, hope and care into their sustainable model with grantee partner The Reset Foundation.

It is so costly to send someone to prison…What if we repurpose those same dollars and help spend them in a better way?

Jane Mitchell, CEO and Co-founder of The Reset Foundation

The state of California spends about $60,000 per year to incarcerate one person. The Reset Foundation offers young people impacted by the justice system an alternative to incarceration—for the same cost to the state as sending them to prison—with much better outcomes. What was once an idea on a post-it in co-founder Jane Mitchell’s dorm room is developing into an innovative solution to transform the lives of vulnerable young men.

Reset sees itself as an institution that has the power to break the intergenerational poverty-to-prison cycle for hundreds of families. By tackling the root causes of this cycle—which include educational gaps, unemployment and trauma—they believe that their impact will lower recidivism rates for its participants.

“For many of our guys, it’s not like they went through just a single traumatic event in their lives; they have faced ongoing trauma. Creating a space where that trauma is acknowledged and they feel comfortable discussing with staff who is trained to support them is key to their healing process.”

Jane Mitchell, CEO and Co-founder of The Reset Foundation

The Reset Foundation’s approach is fully immersive. Residents will participate in a tiered, structured curriculum while living on campus for up to 2.5 years. While the young men are granted more off-campus time as they near the end of their stay, Reset believes the 24/7 aspect of its program is one of the reasons that it can be so effective.

A typical day for residents starts with exercise, meditation and “morning circle”, which incorporates restorative practices that facilitate an honest and open dialogue among residents and staff. Then, residents engage in academic curriculum that differs from the traditional public school model. Reset’s classes are focused on improving literacy with hands-on, project-based assignments in a variety of subjects that are responsive to needs. Afternoons are dedicated to professional development—which may include developing residents’ computer skills, learning about career opportunities and participating in on- and off-campus jobs. In addition to a structured learning environment, Reset provides participants with social-emotional support through one-on-one and group counseling, therapeutic art classes and encouraging family visitations. Social activities—such as field trips and movie nights—further build a sense of community that encourages positive outcomes.

During the final months of the program, Reset’s priority is enabling a smooth transition for its participants back into their communities. They do this by helping their young men obtain housing, jobs, insurance and bank accounts through partnerships with other organizations. Reset also offers academic classes, job coaching and other support services for its graduates. Additionally, Reset is building its network of mentors so that all participants continue to have the support a role model and friend provides.

By offering an alternative to what we believe is an unjust system, Reset residents are empowered to unlock the potential within them and literally “reset” their lives. Reset has the potential to be a catalyst in transforming not only the young people they serve but also the vitality of entire communities.

By showing courts that the cost of an alternative to incarceration has a much bigger return on the state’s investments opens opportunities for Reset to change the way juvenile justice dollars are redistributed. Once the program is operating at capacity, Reset’s economically sustainable model will be fully supported by government funding.

Reset recently completed its non-residential pilot program with very good results: In just 8 months, participants advanced an average of two reading grade levels. They will commence their fully operational residential program by early 2016 in the East Bay Area of California and will eventually be establishing another campus in New York.

The Reset Foundation’s innovative program has received some well-deserved recognition recently. They were one of six Bay Area organizations to win a $500,00 grant in the Google Impact Challenge. We are excited to partner with Reset and look forward to seeing their impact flourish from coast to coast.

Katrina is an experienced and respected leader with more than 15 years of experience working on a national and regional level. She has worked in the non-profit and philanthropic sector, including serving as AFF’s Program Officer. Currently, Katrina is testing how partnerships between philanthropy and government can work on behalf of our most vulnerable youth and their families as the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Connect with Katrina on Linkedin.