The project ‘FACT FOR MINORS – Fostering Alternative Care for Troubled Minors’ intends to address children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders, hosted by alternative care communities (or socio-educational communities) as a consequence of penal measures.
Research interests in mental health problems in juvenile justice have grown over the past years, as several studies throughout the world have shown that mental disorders are highly prevalent among children under penal measures. This represents a significant problem, even more so if the special needs of these children remain unidentified and unaddressed, with significant long-term effects on their life chances and on their physical and mental health and well-being.
The issues raised in European justice systems by children serving a penal measure in alternative care communities that show evidence of psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders, have been poorly addressed. In general, the dilemma posed by the intervention with children in the juvenile justice with such disorders lies in the fact that an inadequate therapeutic response may lead to chronical psychiatric disorders, while an inadequate socio-educational response may result in further marginalisation.
The main issue is that these children need adequate clinical attention and present clinical dilemmas, which is why they are often a real challenge for the social workers in alternative care communities. The response to this challenge cannot lay in parallel interventions by the juvenile justice and the health sectors; instead, it lays in a proper integration of the interventions of the two agencies and of the different professionals that work for or with these children. Indeed, managing children with psychological, psychiatric or personality disorders in alternative care communities requires a holistic, multidisciplinary and multiagency approach, focused on prevention, evaluation, treatment (including emergency treatment), and recovery, considering risk evaluation of clinical and legal relapse. Such approach is therefore both therapeutic and socio-educational.
In this context, this project intends to reinforce the capacity of alternative care communities in five European Union (EU) countries -Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain- to adequately support and respond to the specific needs of the children with psychiatric disorders under penal measures.
Such aim will be pursued by a two-fold action that will seek to:
- Strengthen the capacity of, and the coordination between, all professionals working with and for children in alternative care to address the needs of children with psychiatric disorders; and
- Boost interagency cooperation, in particular on issues related to the alternative care of minors under penal measures and with psychiatric disorders.