National Girls Center Releases Findings from Listening Sessions

OJJDP’s National Girls Institute (NGI) has released “Voices From the Field: Findings From the NGI Listening Sessions.”

Stakeholders—at-risk or justice system-involved girls, parents and caregivers, and practitioners—who attended listening sessions that NGI held across the nation informed the report. The report details training, technical assistance, and informational needs that the 600-plus participants identified as well as recommendations for the field.

Here is an excerpt:

Information and Resource Needs

When girls were asked what information would be helpful, an important theme emerged. Although girls named a wide range and variety of topics, their desire to share advice and hear girls’ stories, and their need for professional help were most prominent. They were seeking empowerment, affirmation, understanding, and opportunities. The girls wanted information about a wide range of topics including communication, education, family help, drugs and alcohol, health, arts and expressing themselves, STDs, relationships, pregnancy, and safe dating. They wanted very basic resources in the areas of jobs/employment, mentors, state resources, crisis, shelters, legal, sex, and medical. Girls also shared preferred formats for website information and resources, which included chats, videos, blogs, and hotlines. The importance of confidentiality emerged repeatedly…

What works and ineffective/harmful practices

When girls were asked about what works and what needs to change in programming and treatment, a number of themes that have implications for policy and practice emerged.

Girls treatment

Girls noted differences in how they were treated as compared to boys, and discussed what they considered to be fair and unfair treatment in general and by decision makers in particular. Some girls felt they were treated fairly. For example, they stated that the judges were fair, listened, and gave them chances. Fair treatment was also described as being treated with respect, care, and leniency. Girls also named a myriad of ways in which they felt they were treated unfairly, including receiving negative treatment by law enforcement and program staff.

Comfort level with staff.

Many girls stated that they felt comfortable talking with staff, though a large number had mixed feelings depending on the staff member or did not feel comfortable at all. Girls stated that staff were understanding, and listen and communicate well, while other respondents reported that staff could not be trusted; they judge the girls and often violate confidentiality.

Positive program rules.

Rules regarding safety and structure were considered positive. In general, rules regarding privilege/point systems, confidentiality, respect, and substance use were also considered positive.

Negative program rules.

Rules for contact with family and non-family were by far the most cited rules that girls thought need changing. Girls also identified rules that were not consistently implemented or followed as areas for improvement.

National Girls Institute’s Critical Focus Areas

Girls provided perspectives regarding what NGI’s critical focus areas should be, with several key themes surfacing.

Adult Response to Girls.

First, instead of discussing a particular area of focus, the majority of girls’ responses mentioned a need for adults to change the way they “respond to girls.” This included focusing on their feelings, their communication needs, and a desire for increased understanding. For example, girls stated:

“They should focus on girls—we have different feelings—all girls are not the same.”

“Sensitivity of girls.”

“Think about how we feel—focus on what is good and build on that— recognize we have feelings.”

The issue of communication was very salient and surfaced in a variety of ways. Having trust in communication, listening skills, and communication with parents and staff were some of the areas in which communication was discussed. Girls overwhelmingly talked about their need for understanding. They seek understanding from others regarding their background and life history as well as their present circumstances and problems.

Check out their website and access the rest of this valuable report here.


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About Tamar Birckhead

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