Sierra Health Foundation:
Positive Youth Justice Initiative

Crossover youth are those with involvement in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Too often, children with histories of family trauma and neglect wind up in the locked facilities of the juvenile justice system. Multiple studies confirm that these youth experience poor long-term outcomes compared to other youth—including higher risks of poverty, homelessness, mental health problems and jail time.

In 2012, the Sierra Health Foundation launched its Positive Youth Justice Initiative (PYJI) to improve outcomes for crossover youth. Six California counties received planning grants to establish collaborative inter-agency models of care. Four county sites continue in 2013-14 with two year implementation grants (Alameda, Solano, San Joaquin and San Diego).

PYJI sites are committed to using four core strategies to serve crossover youth:

  • Positive Youth Justice: an overall approach seeking to develop the strengths and assets of youth in a pro-social context that creates links with community services 
  • Wraparound services: an approach that draws on multiple disciplines and blended funding sources to ensure that the needs of youth are met through effective inter-agency collaboration
  • Trauma informed care: to promote culture change in systems so that they are aware of children’s adverse life experiences and avoid inflicting further damage 
  • Improved service efficiency: to strengthen service networks and structures and to build adequate data and measures to document caseloads and outcomes

For the PYJI, Commonweal provides support services to the initiative Advisory Committee of the following nationally respected researchers and practitioners:

  • Chet Hewitt, President and CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation
  • Shay Bilchik, Director of the Georgetown University Juvenile Justice Center
  • Carol Biondi, State Advisory Group on Juv. Justice & Delinquency Prevention
  • Jeffrey Butts, Research Director, John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CCNY
  • Hon. Carol Liu, California State Senator
  • Sheila Mitchell, Chief Probation Officer, Santa Clara County
  • Hector Sanchez-Flores, Exec. Dir., Nat’l Latino Fatherhood & Family Institute
  • Vincent Schiraldi, Commissioner, New York City Probation Department
  • David Steinhart, Director, Commonweal Juvenile Justice Program

The committee advises the Foundation on initiative implementation, evaluation and related policy reforms. For more information, access the Positive Youth Justice Initiative links on the Sierra Health Foundation website at