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Arlington County

“Imagine a community where all young people’s needs are met and their voices heard.” – Mary Ann Moran

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CYFA launched the BuildStrong Initiative in Arlington County in January 2021 with its RRR program. The Initiative grew later the same year when the County issued CYFA a grant to implement its PEER program among a cohort of high school students.

On September 21, 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously awarded the County’s first restorative justice grant to CYFA after a competitive and equitable funding process. CYFA was one of many cross-sector partners tapped by the County in 2020 to provide expertise on restorative justice and guidance on a strategic vision for implementation of restorative practices throughout the community. The County’s grant focuses on advancing community-building, addressing harm, and promoting racial and social equity through CYFA’s PEER, YPC, RRR, LAW and CARE Programs.  

Arlington’s youth are critical to the County’s future success. CYFA and the County have committed to implement PEER in the County to achieve accountability through empathy and compassion for people who have suffered harm. PEER advances the Arlington County Police Department’s (ACPD) incredible efforts around community policing, and PEER provides an additional opportunity for ACPD officers to stand as community partners rather than in a traditional adversarial role with children and youth. With PEER, community policing is advanced beyond engagement to systemic reform.

Who?

This grant applies to youth ages 15 to 17 who reside in the Green Valley or Buckingham neighborhoods and are interested in transforming the juvenile legal system and school disciplinary system and addressing adolescent harm through restorative practice.

What?

CYFA will train youth to serve as PEER Ambassadors – trained in PEER’s comprehensive anti-racist, social and emotional learning curriculum and empowered to address conflict through a restorative practice framework.

Why?

The power of lived experience cannot be overstated. To achieve system transformation, we must lift-up youth voice, particularly those most impacted by structural oppression. PEER Ambassadors will serve as leaders in their neighborhoods, schools, and community.

How?

Participants will be trained in PEER and in holding restorative conferences. 

Youth Peer Court (YPC) offers young people who cause harm an opportunity to take actionable accountability through peer-driven dispositional opportunities that are based in restorative practice.  

YPC empowers young people through a service-learning opportunity that amplifies accountability, cultural competence, empathy, and equity. It provides participants an opportunity to transform the current juvenile legal system from retributive to restorative. YPC Ambassadors receive instruction on the legal system and its processes, are trained in the PEER curriculum, and are mentored in the art of advocacy.  

Who?

Available to young people ages 10 to 18 who have engaged in harmful behavior that would amount to a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony.

What?

YPC is designed to divert youth from the formal juvenile legal system to an informal, peer-driven process that utilizes restorative practice to hold young people accountable for their actions and prevent future harmful acts.  YPC Ambassadors are trained in PEER’s comprehensive curriculum.

Why?

Provides for meaningful accountability, is trauma- and victim-centered, and provides for successful community reintegration.  

How?

YPC operates like a traditional court; however, the advocacy (prosecutor and defense attorney) and fact-finding (judge) roles are held by young people trained in CYFA’s comprehensive PEER curriculum and mentored by seasoned legal professionals.  Participation is entirely voluntary.  Admission of harm is required.

Arlington is a remarkable county that enthusiastically supports community-centered initiatives focused on social justice. CYFA implemented RRR in service to ACPD officers and the community by providing restorative conferencing to build community and provide space to speak truth. 

Relationships start with conversations. RRR builds community in three ways

Access to justice requires more than the appointment of counsel – it demands high-quality and effective representation.  LAW works to make justice equal by amplifying the skills of legal professionals and those adjacent to the legal system through continued educational opportunities.