Third Sector to Support Cuyahoga County in Designing A Continuum of Care To Reduce Juvenile Justice System-Involvement among Youth

Third Sector will launch a year-long project next month to co-design with Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) a county-wide continuum of care for youth (age 12-17) and their families involved with or at-risk of involvement with the Cuyahoga County juvenile justice system.

The project builds on previous work that Third Sector, CWRU, and the County have done to improve family wellness and safety through county-wide system improvements and provide college access and success coaching services to National Guard service members in the region. It is a cornerstone of the County's work to eliminate racial disparities in the juvenile justice system and reduce the likelihood of young people entering the system.

The project's target beneficiaries are justice-involved youth or those at risk of involvement, particularly Black youth living in low-income communities with disproportionally high juvenile arrest rates. 

“It is really an honor to be invited to partner with Cuyahoga again on a county-wide initiative to improve the way the county serves its community. Cuyahoga County continues to be at the forefront of utilizing outcomes-focused strategies to address big challenges and rethink the role government can play in our lives,” said Caroline Whistler, CEO and Co-Founder of Third Sector. 

Third Sector will facilitate the planning process for standing up a continuum of care (called Care First Cuyahoga). Leveraging its deep experience and expertise in developing and refining programs and services across agencies through intentional collaboration and coordination, Third Sector will  help the County to develop a comprehensive community plan for various departments tasked with supporting system-involved youth to:

  • Address specific gaps that prevent them from serving youth effectively and equitably;
  • Support and expand community-based prevention and intervention programs and best practices for youth and families; 
  • Set measurable targets and establish a process for continuous improvement;
  • Create new contracting strategies for building and maintaining partnerships with other collaboratives and community-based organizations that are already serving youth well; and
  • Develop system-wide coordinated policies and protocols for responding to youth at risk of system involvement.

“Ensuring our government provides well-coordinated services that meet young people's varied needs and ends the cycle of criminalization is one of the most important and complicated challenges our nation faces. We are excited to develop the tools and practices for staff in government and community-based organizations to successfully implement Care First Cuyahoga across county systems and with various community members,” said Oscar Benitez, Managing Director of Diversion & Reentry for Third Sector, who will oversee this project.