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Community Missions Hosts Community Connections for Kids Training

Earlier this week, members of the Juvenile Re-Entry Taskforce attended a training session hosted by Community Missions. The training, called Building Community Capacity for Juvenile Justice Reform, was presented by Rev. Ruben Austria and Rosanne Placencia Knepper, and focused on the best practices from their South Bronx-based program, and how they could be implemented within Niagara County. In all, 16 attendees from 13 different agencies collaborated on how to best implement these strategies within the existing Niagara County framework.

The idea is to build upon existing community relationships to strengthen the support for those within the juvenile justice system. Evaluating current community assets is a great starting point, while training community members in how to work with those in the juvenile justice system is essential. The next step is developing meaningful partnerships with young people, especially while building on those they already have trust with in the community. 

"It's shifting from a deficit-based approach to a strength-based approach," said Austria. "So often, when a youth gets in trouble, we look at 'What are the negatives around them that led them down this road.' What we need to do is reach back into that community, and see what positives surround that youth, and how we can tap into those. Those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution."

Another approach embraced by the program is bringing on mentors that have been through incarceration themselves. While many of these individuals already take on this role informally upon release, the training and structure offered through programs such as these help both mentor and mentee to achieve more lasting results. 

"The idea of credible messenger mentoring was very interesting to us," said Megan Genson, Juvenile Re-Entry Coordinator. "That could include former system-involved community members serving as mentors, or just those community members that are already volunteering their time to give back to youth. Finding those individuals that are already credible in the eyes of our youth, and bringing them into our program in the form of per diem support staff, could be a great way to build additional supports for these youth."

The Niagara County Juvenile Re-Entry Program is a joint effort between Community Missions, Niagara County Department of Social Services (NCDSS), NYS Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) and New Directions Youth and Family Services. It is designed to link youth adjudicated as juvenile delinquents and their families with support services and resources to help them avoid further crime and violence once they have returned to their home communities from out-of-home placement locations.


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By The Numbers...

In 2023, Community Missions provided:

12,108 nights of shelter

178,696 meals

2,780 individuals with clothing

3,562 care days in Youth Services

43,388 care days in Recovery Services

72,302 care days in Housing Services

467 reflections & resources for Faith Development


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