Holding youth accountable for disruptive behavior while providing education and support services, The Chase Home’s Seacoast Community Diversion Program (SCDP) represents an increasingly popular alternative to traditional punishment through Juvenile Court.
“Data is clear that kids who receive education and support rather than simply getting punished for non-violent crimes have a much lower probability of getting into trouble again,” explained The Chase Home Executive Director Meme Wheeler.
Mandated by courts as an alternative to traditional forms of punishment, SCDP involves families, too, a programmatic element that one Seacoast area parent said she found particularly helpful.
“The opportunity to talk to the people in the diversion program through Zoom and having my daughter and I both be present in the moment to discuss the issues together was great,” she said. “Her being able to reflect on what she did and us being able to be counseled together was very helpful.”
Citing shoplifting as the reason her daughter entered SCDP, which includes suicide prevention services and screening, the parent said she also learned some things about herself. “It was great to see that maybe I was overreacting at times,” she said.
Her daughter is now enrolled in college to become a dental hygienist, a goal the parent said she believes her daughter has set as a result of her experience within SCDP.
“Through the diversion program, I feel [my daughter] really got to see how what she did was wrong and how other issues down the road would be detrimental to her future,” the parent added.
According to Hillary Hallinan (pictured left), SCDP coordinator, this family’s experience is just one example of what takes place each week in the program, which includes clinical staff from Chase Home and community members.
“We have community members who serve on committees that help youth develop contracts that lay out the steps they need to take to graduate from SCDP,” she said. “It’s a wonderful program, because it employs a team-based approach. We are also very flexible in how we work with families, because there is a significant time committment.”
This flexibility, according to the parent, was “much appreciated.”
“The team makes it easy to fit it into people’s busy schedules,” she said. “I was hesitant and afraid with my work schedule and my daughter’s school and work schedules, but they made it work.”
A 12-week program guided by clinical staff, counselors and community volunteers, SCDP features family counseling and a variety of one-on-one sessions that focus on the development of skills relevant for future success. These sessions may include, but are not restricted to: drug counseling, anger management, coping, decision-making, and healthy relationships.
SCDP is one of 17 Accredited Diversion Programs in the state. The accrediting body is the New Hampshire Juvenile Court Diversion Network (The Network), which has provided financial support and guidance since the program’s inception. Other major funders include Foundation for Seacoast Health and Kennebunk Savings.
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth provides at-risk youth across the state with prevention, early intervention, residential, and community-based services. Some youth are served in the community while others live at The Chase Home. To learn more about The Chase Home, visit chasehome.org.