June 18, 2014

Wayne County wins National award for innovative youth conflict resolution program

98% success rate keeps youth in school instead of juvenile justice system

Detroit, MI— Less than 18 months after the program’s creation, Wayne County’s Children and Family Services (CFS) “Attendance- Participation-Support” (A-P-S) program is being honored with a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award in the Children and Youth category. An evaluation of all students that participated in 2013 finds that 98% were retained in school and have not entered the juvenile justice system.

A-P-S was created in February 2013 by the Juvenile Services Division of CFS as an innovative way to deal with adolescent conflict resolution. The program works with youth and families to promote better school attendance, academic participation and retention.

From February 2013 to September 30, 2013, the Wayne County A-P-S has provided an alternative to school conflict resolution and expulsion for 370 youth and families enrolled in 25 Detroit area schools. The A-P-S strategy is timely assessment, family engagement, referral and access to services appropriate to assessed need.

“Wayne County’s new school-based initiative, A-P-S aims to reverse the “school to prison” pipeline,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. “Unlike the traditional zero tolerance student discipline policies that many school districts implement, A-P-S offers resources to schools and students experiencing conflict and/or school failure before they get out of control. We believe that this approach will severely reduce the number of students that enter the formal justice system,” said Ficano.

The A-P-S process starts with a phone call from a teacher or principal concerning a student that is at-risk of discipline, including expulsion. The Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) A-P-S specialists travel to the school and instead of imposing immediate discipline, the student and parent/caregiver first participate in a skilled interview, followed by a computer guided assessment. Answers to computer-based questions are electronically converted into a plan of action. This process often uncovers behavioral and emotional issues behind the student’s misconduct.

Based on the results of the assessment, students are referred for services. If a severe condition is identified, the student may be referred for intensive mental health intervention.

Coordinated community service groups focus on helping everyone in the family. To connect students and families to the “right” service, competent assessment is essential. The underlying reasons for school absences, conflicts in the home and learning failures at school must first be revealed. Youth and caregivers are expected to participate in and be actively involved in schooling. Follow up school and family services make sure the services were carried out and that they are useful for families.

A public-private partnership between county, school and community agencies form the centerpiece of the program. The value of this collaboration is to provide youth effective support to stay in school without being adjudicated into the juvenile system, and to strengthen their family ties. Wayne County has contracted with the JAC to implement this program.

To learn more about the services provided by Wayne County’s Children and Family Services division, visit the CFS webpage at

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