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North Carolina’s current community-based services system has done well to prevent initial or further involvement of youth in the juvenile justice system while contributing to public safety locally; however, very few programs focus on supporting and empowering the parents and communities suffering from the collateral consequences of juvenile justice system involvement, especially in rural communities.

For example, Hoke and Robeson counties lack sufficient programming to engage the parents, families and friends of youth in the juvenile justice system, therefore families are unaware of: (1) how to navigate the system; (2) the availability of resources; and (3) their fundamental and statutory rights.  

The Parents and Friends of Incarcerated Youth Initiative (PFIYI) is a grassroots movement in Hoke and Robeson counties organized to educate, empower, and support the parents and communities of incarcerated youth; where the youth are frequently entangled in the juvenile justice system.  According to the North Carolina Division of Juvenile Justice 2011 Annual Report, the central area of NC including, but not limited to Hoke and Robeson counties, had a total of 10,375 juvenile complaints, 1,516 detention center admissions, and 100 youth development center commitments. In that same year, across central North Carolina, African American and American Indian youth had a disproportionally higher number of complaints and detention center admissions. The need for PFIYI in these counties is critical. Therefore, the intended outcomes of this movement are to: 1) educate parents about the juvenile justice system;  2) start a zealous juvenile justice reform movement within these small communities; 3) build a network of parents and concerned citizens who are motivated, and empowered; and 4) educate and engage local and state elected officials. 

In its attempt to invoke change, PFIYI promotes collaboration, which requires professionals from a broad range of backgrounds to work together in juvenile justice reform efforts.  Therefore, it is critical that stakeholders in the juvenile justice system, direct service agency providers, local faith-based organizations, public school system representatives and members from the local communities are all actively engaged in this movement.  Fortunately, many of the local community leaders and stakeholders affiliated with the juvenile justice system understand the importance of parental involvement and are partnering with PFIYI in this reform movement, creating a better hope and future for North Carolina youths—one community at a time.  

Sabrina Leshore, J.D., is a  2013-2014 Youth Justice Leadership Institute Fellow at the National Juvenile Justice Network. For more information about PFIYI, including donating, volunteering and partnering, contact Sabrina Leshore at sabrinaleshore@yahoo.com or 973-901-6851.  

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