NUMBER 255• 24 APRIL 2003 • FEMALE OFFENDERS
INDEX OF QUOTES
Some state agencies are now examining their programs for adolescent female offenders in an effort to design more effective and gender-fair programs (e.g., Iowa Gender Specific Services Task Force, 1995; Washington State Equity Task Force, 1995). There is no evidence that effective programs for juvenile female offenders need to be fundamentally different from other programs that center on the unique developmental, emotional, and educational needs girls. In fact, many of the concerns of adequate programming for girls—such as women’s health, sexual ‘use, or girl—woman mentoring—appear to be amplified for juvenile female offenders. Programs that work for girls have some effective characteristics in common:
- They are built on girls’ strengths rather than on efforts to “fix” them;
- They involve girls in the planning and implementation of the program;
They nurture supportive networks among girls and between women and girls;
They address girls’ whole lives rather than single areas of need; and
They create opportunities for girls to speak out, free from interruption or ridicule (Valentine Foundation, 1992; Valentine Foundation & Women’s Way, 1990).
Programs for adolescent female offenders can be improved by attending to these common characteristics of effective programs and by incorporating elements specifically designed to meet the needs of female offenders into the curriculum, vocational programs, and teacher preparation.
Returning Values to the Curriculum
Curricula designed for adolescent female offenders need to speak to the years of abuse, dependency, and deprivation these girls have faced. One approach shown to be effective in improving teenage girls’ self-esteem, vocational aspirations, and self-determination is the Literature Project (Miller, 1993a). In this project, novels are read that highlight girls who have experienced similar life difficulties to those of adolescent female offenders (e.g., The Color Purple, The Solitary, Rainbow Jordan). In the novels chosen for the Literature Project, the heroines overcome significant life difficulties (e.g., abuse, divorce, chaotic families, dysfunctional relationships, drug abuse), and the heroines and novels are chosen with particular attention to how the problems are solved. For example, novels that portray courage, honesty, and integrity as the problem-solving approach are preferred over those that depict problems being solved through dependency (i.e., on men) or escape. The heroines thus serve as role models for these girls and are a focus of discussion and activities. The Literature Project has enriched the curriculum options for adolescent female offenders.
Adolescent girls also need access to quality counseling services to combat their dependencies and develop healthy coping strategies. Such services need to be very carefully fashioned to address the unique needs of these adolescents and to avoid inadvertently enhancing dependent behaviors. This entails employing counselors who are very knowledgeable about the needs and developmental characteristics of adolescent females.
DARCY MILLER et al
Miller, D.; Fejes-Mendoza, K. & Eggleston, C. (1997). Reclaiming "Fallen Angels": Values and skills for delinquent girls. Reclaiming children and youth. Vol.5. No. 4. pp 232-233
Miller, D. (1993a). The literature project: Using literature to improve self-concept of at-risk adolescent females. Journal of Reading, 36, 442-448
Valentine Foundation and Women's Way. (1990). A conversation about girls. Bryn Mawr, PA: Author.
Valentine Foundation (1992). Conversation II. Programs that work for girls. Conference Line, p. iv.