AMIkids offers a variety of community-based, experiential treatment interventions for at-risk and delinquent youths that are designed to reduce recidivism and be cost effective. The AMIkids programs are run by the nonprofit organization AMIkids, Inc. (formerly Associated Marine Institutes) in Florida and offer services through several different program settings, including day treatment centers, wilderness camps, home-based family counseling, residential programs for male adolescents, gender-specific programming for female adolescents, and alternative schools.
AMIkids’ service delivery is targeted at eight integrated components: education, challenge experiences, cognitive–behavioral therapy, strengths-based case management, behavior modification, family partnership, problem-solving and social skills development, and community service. This approach is based on theoretical perspectives and treatment interventions found in empirical research literature to effectively reduce juvenile delinquency (Winokur Early et al. 2010).
The foundation of service delivery adheres to the AMIkids Personal Growth Model (PGM), which is a unified approach to treatment, education, and behavior modification designed to help youths achieve personal growth and success. The PGM uses an experiential learning environment to deliver cognitive–behavioral interventions designed to reduce youths’ risks for mental, behavioral, and emotional problems while encouraging the youths to make positive changes in their lives to avoid future involvement in the juvenile justice system. The goals of the PGM are:
- Integration of evidence-based interventions and strategies into the services provided by AMIkids
- Reduction in recidivism and improvement in prosocial outcomes by addressing youths’ risks, needs, and responsivity
- Establishing a holistic approach to serving youth, encompassing the individual, the family, and the community
The conceptual framework of the PGM is based on research and theory of delinquency and treatment interventions for juveniles (AMIkids 2009a). The PGM also embodies the integration of program components centered on the AMIkids Culture, which consists of six core principles: bonding, family atmosphere, nonprison environment, positive learning environment, gender responsiveness, and cultural relevancy.
Upon enrollment in AMIkids, each youth is administered a comprehensive assessment called the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT). The PACT assessment instrument identifies youths’ criminogenic risks and needs. Based on the PACT assessment, youths are assigned to mental health or substance use treatment services (or to both) that consist of:
- Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy, to address anger, mental health, behavior, and substance use treatment needs
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy, to address substance use treatment needs
- Aggression Replacement Training, which concentrates on anger and skills deficits as well as moral reasoning
- Skillstreaming, to deal with social skills deficits
- Motivational Interviewing for rapport building and moving youths toward positive change
The assessment also determines the necessary intensity and duration of treatment interventions based on individual risk and protective factors, responsivity to treatment, readiness to change, and criminogenic needs.
The AMIkids day treatment programs provide community-based interventions that allow youths to reside at home while they attend daily services. During the day, youths receive intervention services and attend school at the day treatment center in an academic setting. At night, youths return home, which fosters family involvement in the treatment process. Day treatment programs are designed to serve delinquent youths in a nonresidential setting and to improve youths’ academic achievement, vocational achievement, and school attendance and reduce their problem behaviors such as substance use, violence, delinquency, and conduct disorders. Youths participating in day treatment programs have been adjudicated delinquent by the court for misdemeanors and lesser felonies and often have co-occurring substance misuse and mental health issues.
The day treatment programs are usually small, usually located near the youth’s home, and generally operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. The average length of stay in the program is typically 4 to 6 months. Services provided by program staff address issues in both the home and neighborhood by working with each youth and his or her family together. Services include staff home visits, a small staff-to-student ratio, comprehensive counseling, individualized cognitive–behavioral treatment services, and family integration.
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Overall, after controlling for group differences and predictors of recidivism, Winokur Early and colleagues (2010) found the AMIkids community-based day treatment sample was significantly less likely to be adjudicated or convicted for an offense within 12 months of release (38 percent day treatment recidivism rate versus 43 percent residential recidivism rate). Youths who received AMIkids day treatment services were significantly less likely to be rearrested (54 percent versus 59 percent), rearrested for a felony offense (30 percent versus 42 percent), convicted for a felony offense (18 percent versus 27 percent) and subsequently committed, placed on adult probation, or sentenced to prison (23 percent versus 29 percent) compared with youths who completed residential programming.