Youth Treatment Programs

The fraction of society that is constituted by the younger generations is considered a vulnerable population for various reasons. For instance, adolescents who make up majority of the youth are considered vulnerable populations particularly under the context of juvenile justice because of the things or situations that individuals during this age experience.  According to a research study spearheaded by the John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Research Network detailing the features and characteristics of vulnerable populations that are undergoing the difficult transition from childhood and adolescence to adulthood, the natural process of having to go through major life changes has become too complicated and confusing to handle. This, and other reasons, such as the youth’s need for support and guidance from older and more experienced people, establishes the fact why children and adolescents are considered part of vulnerable populations. (Osgood, Foster, Flanagan, & Ruth, 2005)

For this reason, considering concepts of criminal justice under the context of juvenile issues, laws, standards, guidelines, and policies that are being implemented are also designed and structured to suit the distinctive needs, concerns, and other situations that the youth is facing. For instance, youth treatment programs that are being implemented to address juvenile delinquency problems should be structured in order to match the unique traits and characteristics of the youth as a vulnerable population. Some selected treatment programs that were intended for the youth which will be the focus of succeeding discussions include the Multisystemic Therapy or MST, the Functional Family Therapy or the FFT, and the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care or the MTFC. These treatment programs will be defined determining how each is fitting or not to address the specific needs and concerns of the younger generation under the context of criminal justice, counseling and therapy, and rehabilitation.

Perhaps of the three treatment programs aforementioned, the Multisystemic Therapy or MST comparatively offers the best change for success in addressing delinquent or anti-social behavior in younger groups as vulnerable populations. Aside from the fact that MST has been tried and tested since its introduction to youth treatment in the 1970s, this treatment program is also able to explore various systems within the child’s social network going beyond the limits of the influence of the family to child behavior. As the name of the MST suggests, it considers various social systems that might contribute to the development and display of delinquent or anti-social behavior. In other words, the MST seems to adhere to the resolution of behavioral problems in children or adolescents in every respect. (MST Services, 2007)

The MST was developed as a means of responding to several flaws or deficiencies in other models of treatment programs that existed during that time. It was determined, through research studies and the implementation of aforementioned programs to the practice of counseling and therapy, that other models of treatment programs do not record commendable rates of success in achieving the established goals and outcomes of therapy. Aside from this major flaw in the design of treatment programs, the set standards that guide the practice and implementation of processes in these programs do not achieve the required accountability standards for those who offer these services. Another problem that the MST sought to resolve during that time was the high cost of services being provided to the youth, which lessens the chances or limits access to required services as a means of addressing problems pertaining to delinquency or anti-social behavior. (MST Services, 2007)

Not only was the MST successful in addressing the flaws of treatment programs that were implemented during that time, its advantages were attributed to the process of initiating and providing services in a natural setting. This means that the MST is able to stray away from contrived environments that will make it difficult for children and adolescents to adjust and submit to the necessities that constitute corresponding processes of therapy. In addition, the MST looks into every aspect of the child or the adolescent’s social network. According to the concepts that govern the practice of the MST, unlike other treatment programs that focus solely on familial relationships, the behavior exhibited by the youth whether positive or negative are influenced by social extensions from the home. (MST Services, 2007)

MST not only seeks to develop a desirable and harmonious relationship between the child or adolescent and his family, but also establish solid and beneficial relationships between the child or adolescent with other social networks. The efforts of MST service providers constitute the diversion of attention of the child or adolescent from his peers who are known to exhibit similar delinquent or anti-social problems to social circles that display opposite morals, values, and behavior, the involvement of the community and other concerned individuals, groups, or institutions in accomplishing the goals and objectives of MST, the establishment of the importance in performing well in the school setting, and the introduction of various recreational activities that will help foster positive attitudes and behavior in the child or adolescent. (MST Services, 2007) The success of the MST lies in its ability to work within the social environment that the child or adolescent is familiar with, employing the help of a vast social network that will be able to help enforce valuable and desirable changes to the child.

On the contrary, under these pretexts, the Functional Family Therapy or FFT, might obtain the least change for success in operating under youth treatment programs. This assumption is based on the limitations and weaknesses that the FFT constitutes as it is compared with the MST. As suggested by the program’s name, the FFT solely focuses on the role of the family in influencing the behavior of the child or adolescent. The aim of nurturing behavioral changes is realized through the establishment of a desirable relationship between the child or adolescent with his parents or family. The FFT strongly suggests that quality of relationships that exist between a child or adolescent with his parents or family determines the quality of life that one leads under the context of goodness or morality. For this reason, the program is initiated by assessing or evaluating the behavior exhibited by a child or adolescent and the kind of relationship that he has with his parents of family. (FFT, 2007)

Although at some point during the implementation of the program, the issues of other factors influencing behavior, such as school and community factors, are considered, FFT services providers are not obligated to address relational issues that are outside the circle of the child or adolescent and his family. This proves why the FFT will exhibit the least success in its implementation, since behavior is not only shaped by the family but also other social networks in which the child or adolescent is involved in. In other words, the life of the child does not only revolve around his family, establishing the idea that what he learns and adapts are a mix of what his various social networks offer. For this reason, treatment programs that are intended for the youth should widen their coverage, extending beyond the limits of the internal features or characteristics of the child or adolescent, or the relational situations between him and his family.

One other treatment program that might be more successful and efficient than the FFT is the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care of MTFC since its framework is similar to that of the MST. Like the MST, the MTFC focuses on various areas of the child or adolescent’s social network. For this reason, the services provided by the MTFC are not limited to one particular area or space wherein the child or adolescent is involved, in terms of how he spends his time, but to various areas or spaces wherein the child or adolescent is believed to be influenced by these social environments. (TFC Consultants, Inc., N.D.)

The MTFC exhibit similarities with the MST, particularly the various activities that the program seeks to implement in order to achieve its goals and objectives of lessen the occurrence of delinquent or anti-social behavior by establishing the opportunity for the child or adolescent to reconstruct his life in order to nurture a prosocial life through the display of desirable actions and behavior. The MTFC does not only involve the parents in this mission, but also intervene in the kind of parenthood skills and actions that parents exhibit to facilitate proper guidance through training. In addition, the MTFC also helps children and adolescents experience fun, entertainment, and success through skill development activities that involve support groups. In addition, the MTFC also employs the help of the school community by asking educational institutions in continuing the implementation of treatment standards and policies within the school environment for continuity and consistency. (TFC Consultants, Inc., N.D.)

Overall, successful treatment programs are those that look at the problems of juvenile delinquency and anti-social behavior as a systemic or multi-dimensional concern not only limited to one aspect of society, such as the family, the community, or the school, alone, but a shared trepidation that everyone should be concerned about. Systemic or multidimensional treatment programs such as the MST and the MTFC do not only focus on immediately solving the problem, but consider how problems are to be resolved long-term by looking at the problem in its entirety. In addition, the systemic or multidimensional framework of treatment programs address the distinctive needs and concerns of the youth as a vulnerable population since it seeks to transform social networks that are capable of influencing the child or adolescent into leading a healthy, sound, and productive life, during a stage wherein they need support and guidance the most, lessening the complexity and confusion during transition.