May 26, 2017

Collaborative Courts Speakers Series: Adolescents, Young Adults, and the Brain

San Francisco Collaborative Courts offers a quarterly speaker series to provide relevant training opportunities to partners across justice, substance use, mental health, and family service systems. Participation is free of charge.

Upcoming training opportunity: 

Adolescents, Young Adults, and the Brain
Friday, June 9, 2:30-4:30pm
Judicial Council of California
455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Milton Marks Auditorium, lower level


Working with adolescents and young adults requires an understanding of the developmental processes affecting behavior, decision making, capacity and motivation. This training provides an overview of the typical and trauma-reactive developmental changes in adolescence and young adulthood. Training content provides a brief overview of neuroscience, substance use, developmental differentiation, mental health issues and trauma. Participants will learn key strategies for positive engagement with youth and young adults. 


Dr. Gena Castro Rodriguez, Psy.D., holds a BA in psychology from Sacramento State University, a Masters in Counseling Psychology from University of San Francisco, and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from California Institute for Integral Studies. She has worked in the dependency, delinquency and criminal justice systems for 25 years, including 10 years as the co-founder and executive director of the Youth Justice Institute. She is currently the Chief of the Victim Services Division and Parallel Justice Programs for San Francisco District Attorney’s Office overseeing victim advocacy, restitution, State Victims Compensation Program and the Sentencing Planning Program. Her clinical and research interests are in the areas of trauma, delinquency, cultural humility, victimology and gender responsivity.

The training is free and CEU credits (MCLE and BBS) will be provided. RSVP is not required. Room is available based on seating capacity. Feel free to forward this information.

May 22, 2017

SF Young Adult Court in the News!

Two recent articles highlighted the importance and impact of the San Francisco Young Adult Court.

The New York Times
"A California Court for Young Adults Calls on Science"
By Tim Requart
April 17, 2017

Photo: Laura Morton / The New York Times

"Surprisingly, this alternative legal philosophy springs not from concerns about overcrowded prisons or overburdened courts, but from neuroscience.

"Researchers have long known that the adolescent brain is continually rewiring itself, making new connections and pruning unnecessary neurons as it matures. Only recently has it become clear that the process stretches well into early adulthood.

"Buried in that research is an uncomfortable legal question: If their brains have not fully matured, how responsible are adults ages 18 to 24 for their crimes?

"Should they be treated more like adolescents, handled in the comparatively lenient juvenile system, or more like hardened 35-year-olds? Should young adults be held fully responsible for certain crimes but not others?"

The San Francisco Chronicle
"Programs in sanctuary cities threatened by federal funding cut"
By Emily Green
March 30, 2017

"In San Francisco, an innovative court program that helps young adults facing criminal charges or who have already been convicted pull their lives together began in 2015 with the help of a Justice Department grant. A team of city employees helps the defendants find jobs, housing and enroll in school. If a defendant meets the goals — about a third graduate — they earn a reduced criminal record or even no record at all."

KQED: "Neuroscientist Explores the Contradictions of the Teen Brain"

Last week on KQED's Forum, Michael Krasny interviewed Dr. Frances Jensen, professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Jensen is also the author of "The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults."

Research on adolescent and young adult brain development has been a driving force in the implementation of Juvenile Reentry Court and, more recently, Young Adult Court

Forum description:

"Neuroscientist Frances Jensen says that when her two sons became teenagers, she marveled at their ability to stay focused for a test, yet still commit major lapses in judgment almost daily. The contradictions, she explains, have both emotional and physical roots: teens are more affected by stressful situations than adults, and their brains are years from being fully developed. Jensen joins Forum to talk about her book 'The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults.'"

May 10, 2017

NADCP: National Strategic Plan for Family Drug Courts Released

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) announced the release of the National Strategic Plan for Family Drug Courts. NADCP's statement is below:

"[NADCP] is pleased to share that the new 'National Strategic Plan for Family Drug Courts' has been released by Children and Family Futures as part of its training and technical assistance agreement with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

This Strategic Plan provides a framework for a coordinated national strategy to enhance and expand the use of family drug courts to improve the outcomes for children and families affected by parental substance use disorders. The primary goals of the plan are to:

1) Improve the effectiveness of the existing family drug court network by assuring it operates with fidelity to the model;

2) Expand the reach of family drug courts to keep families together and reduce child maltreatment; and

3) Continue to build the evidence base about what works for family drug courts to improve outcomes for children and parents.

Developed with a diverse group of stakeholders, the Strategic Plan is pertinent to all policymakers, practitioners, researchers, foundations, and advocates committed to improving child welfare and substance use disorder treatment outcomes for children and parents.

NADCP CEO Carson Fox notes, 'Of the more than 400,000 children in foster care, the majority are there because of a parent or caregiver who is in need of treatment for alcohol or drugs. This plan lays out a pathway to ensure all children and families have access to effective, evidenced-based services that are proven to improve child welfare outcomes. It advances justice for children and families affected by substance use disorders in a way that the field has never done before.'"

Download the Strategic Plan here.