Los Angeles County’s Probation Department’s Juvenile Services Division is undergoing a paradigm shift in its approach, using evidence-based practices and community-based services to put young people on the road to rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. The change is working: the number of youth on probation and in custodial care is down considerably. To build on this progress, the County seeks to establish and implement an updated strategic plan, focusing on program alignment, increased community collaboration and improved communications with public and private stakeholders.
Despite real successes, the Department faces increasingly complex challenges. Among those is the inequity within the County itself. A recent report, entitled A Portrait of Los Angeles County, compiled indicators in health, education, and earnings, known as the American Health Index, that spotlight major imbalances. For example, the City of San Marino scored a 9.4 in the index, while Florence-Graham registered a 2.4. The Department believes it must allocate resources to address this disparity. More broadly, it also believes that in order to meet the challenges ahead, managers need further training: while strong operationally, many lack large-scale project management skills, including stakeholder engagement to communicate goals and incorporate feedback. As part of its ongoing transformation, the Department’s ambition is to step into a leadership role organizationally to address juvenile justice issues across multiple agencies and a range of community stakeholders.
The Department recently underwent an extensive external review that produced hundreds of recommendations, which cannot be fully implemented in the best of circumstances, much less at a time of budget cuts. This underscores the necessity of a strategic plan that targets a core set of goals, with timelines and concrete performance measurements built in. The objective is for all stakeholders –young people, parents, and collaborating agencies – to perceive this plan as an added value, creating hope, enthusiasm, and optimism for the future. To support this work, the County will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level Fellow for one year who will refine and strengthen an updated strategic plan in accordance with management vision; design a management training program to help execute the plan; seek out the collaboration of stakeholders (community groups, nonprofits, government entities, and business and philanthropic organizations) to encourage feedback and buy-in on the plan; and develop public-private partnerships to build capacity and leverage private funders.
The Department is going through a transformative process, seeking innovative ways for integrating young people and families in communities to lead productive lives. As the country’s largest juvenile justice system, its success could serve as a national model.
Project Summary & Potential Deliverables
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in September 2018, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will conduct an overview of the Department’s operations, getting a clear idea of where progress has been made and where it is most needed. This includes meeting with management, grasping its organizational vision and starting work on translating that vision into initiatives supported by a strategic plan. As the plan takes shape, efforts will go towards developing training modules designed to give managers a leg-up in project management to ensure the success of the new initiatives. Concurrently, the fellow will formalize communication protocols with stakeholders to ensure that strategies include community input and that gaps in community needs are met by the new initiatives. These protocols will help maintain open communications looking ahead and further generate public-private partnerships to build capacity and leverage private funding. With a base of knowledge and feedback in place, an updated strategic plan will be finalized, containing initiatives with clear objectives, timelines, and measurable performance indicators. This process will serve as an organizational model to develop future initiatives and strategic plans.
The fellow’s success in this endeavor will be evaluated based on several factors. The fellow will apply a strong project management and strategic planning background to the complexities of probation services delivery. This background, combined with experience in management training; proven ability to engage with community groups and stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as consensus-building, will provide the fellow with the required tools to help the Juvenile Probation Department achieve its goal of lower recidivism through increased community-based services.
- Conduct a landscape assessment: Conduct an overview of Department operations, especially developments over the past 18 months, and meet with management to get a thorough understanding of the strategic vision and proposed initiatives going forward. Begin work devising an updated strategic plan that acts as a roadmap for the implementation of that vision and related initiatives.
- Engage management and stakeholders as partners: Meet with middle- and upper-level managers to hear what they most need to build their capacity for project management and implementation. Assess what skills are most needed and develop teaching modules customized to meet those needs, bringing in external partners to conduct modules, as necessary. Establish regular communication channels with stakeholders (community groups, nonprofits, government entities, and business and philanthropic organizations) to ensure that strategies include their input.
- Develop a strategic plan: Utilizing the knowledge and feedback collected during the first half of the year, finalize the updated strategic plan for the Department, providing a structural framework for initiatives going forward, with clear objectives, timelines, and measurable performance indicators.
- Guide initial implementation of the strategic plan: Oversee implementation of an action plan and convene management and stakeholders to hear feedback and suggestions for improvement. Ascertain progress on Departmental efforts to develop public-private partnerships to leverage private funding and lend support as needed.
- Sheila Mitchell, Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- Jennifer Kaufman, Senior Director, Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- Jack Sims, Division Director, Los Angeles County Probation Department
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in project management, strategy consulting, and/or strategic planning.
- Experience in criminal justice and/or juvenile justice helpful, but not required.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
- Ability to create direction and movement within potentially cautious or skeptical
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.