ROSES at Rutgers helps girls in the Camden juvenile justice system
Statistics show the arrests of girls increased 69 percent between 1985 and 2010 nationwide, compared to 5 percent for boys. Girls' arrests for crimes against people increased 190 percent during that time frame and their arrests for drug offenses increased 117 percent. In Camden County, 555 girls were busted for crimes in 2014 alone.
Rutgers University-Camden is teaming up with the Camden County Youth Services Commission to work and change these numbers.
Michelle Meloy, associated dean of the graduate school and research at Rutgers-Camden said the initiative, Resilience, Opportunity, Safety, Education, Strength —or ROSES — focuses on providing intervention for girls in juvenile detention or on probation.
She said ROSES is an evidence-based model that is being implemented at New York University and before that, at University of Illinois.The program focuses on the girls' specific strengths and not their weaknesses.
"It meets the girl where she is. You determine what kinds of issues she thinks are causing problems for her, what is it she would like to work on moving forward," said Meloy.
The goal is to try and turn over the reins at the end of the 10-to-12 week program to someone who has learned how to advocate for their own needs, said Meloy. She said research suggests that these girls who are caught up in the juvenile justice system simply don't know how to reach out and use existing programs effectively. So ROSES is there to help them identify what they might want to work on, what they think might help them move themselves forward.
Advocates for ROSES are comprised mostly of undergraduate students and some graduates as well. Meloy said they must take a two-semester course. In the fall semester, the students spend the entire time being trained on the evidence-based model with emphasis on role playing and effective communication skills.
Advocates are taught the skills and the confidence to handle the situations when they are one-on-one with these girls who need help.
The class then meets in the spring semester when the assignments are made and the focus is really on working on with the girl in the community as well as coming to class to meet with the professor to give updates as to where they are with things, what's going well and what struggles they may be facing.
Meloy said it's up to the girl to decide whether or not they want to work with the advocate for the 12-week span. But then the communication is structurally severed.
"They are not allowed to have any ongoing relationship after that point," she said.
During that time, the troubled girl gets to say what she wants to work on in her life and then become their own advocate moving forward.
She said if a student advocate with ROSES can help these girls identify and reach the goals they're looking for, the hope is that the girl will move away from deviant and criminal behavior and move toward more pro-social kinds of behavior.
ROSES is an option to provide gender-specific services to high-risk girls and Meloy said what they've learned is that talking to other girls around their age may help them to open up more and identify with them better, creating a more positive outcome.
NYU found that the girls who have had access to these services are doing well months after services were completed. The hope is that same results will be found at Rutgers-Camden.
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