Colleen is at high risk according to the Missouri risk assessment; she had a total score of 9 which is in the range for High risk: A score of 8+. Colleen was 15 years of age at her first referral and had no priors according to local authority records. However, just recently she has received a prior or present referral for a felony assault; involuntary manslaughter and adjudicated delinquent. Prior to her assessment Colleen has been living in out of home placement. It appears that for now she has peer relationships (three homeless men) which are a strong negative influence. This is illustrated by Colleen testing positive for opiates and fabricating a Wizard of Oz excuse for her condition (walking through a field of poppies). There is a history of abuse/neglect as her dad abandoned the family when she was an infant, and Colleen’s mum has a history of drug abuse. This substantiates the conclusion that Colleen has experienced neglect, given that one of parents ignored their responsibilities to her, and the other had made lifestyle choices that are strongly correlated to child abuse/neglect. This question is difficult to answer as there is no information available about a known petition of DFS finding of probable case.
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There is some evidence of substance abuse at this time for Colleen. At the time of her first arrest she was found to be under the influence of opiates so it is reasonable to assume that she may have moderate alcohol or drug abuse issues, or be developing some. Given her mum’s drug addition, Colleen may model her mum’s behaviors, such as self medicating to cope with life difficulties. There is no direct indication that Colleen has not attended school it is reported that she has recently been “traveling” with three homeless men, and that she has a habit of running away from her home with her Aunt. It is unlikely then that the young woman has been attending school regularly, and was recorded as having moderate problems in this area. It seems that her Aunt, as the current parent figure, has had a management style that is moderately ineffective. Colleen has run away several times, has been traveling with the homeless, appears to be missing school, and to be using a narcotic. At this point in time, Aunt Emily’s parent management is not able to provide the support and guidance that Colleen needs. Although Colleen does not have prior issues involving the police it seems that recently her behavior has become erratic and dangerous to others as well as herself. This change in general behavior may be because Colleen is in the adolescent development stage and be struggling with her identity and physical changes. Or it may be that young woman is experiencing social pressures that she is trying to cope with. Finally, Colleen’s mum is in a drug rehabilitation centre. This risk assessment does not inquire into possible reasons behind the high risk behavior, and it does not suggest possible interventions suited to a particular individual. Rather broad brush approach, for example, prior or present referrals is ambiguous here as Colleen was only recently arrested for use of narcotics and accidental homicide. On the Washington Risk Assessment scale Colleen scored an 8 on the Social History dimension and 6 on the Criminal History dimension, scoring her as at a Moderate Risk.
Xander at 17 appears to fall outside of the age groupings for the Missouri Assessment scale. As he has had prior referrals, including those for misdemeanor offences (e.g., purse snatching) Xander scored highly. His peer relationships are strongly negative as he has admitted to being a member of a local gang, and Xander appears to have severe problems with school attendance seeing as he has dropped out. His mum is not coping well with his conduct and has reported him to the police on occasion. However, there are no reports of alcohol or drug abuse, and it appears that he has not had a diagnosis for a mental illness. Also there do not appear to be any referrals for physical abuse against others or for felony offences. Xander’s score of 8 placed him in the High risk category for the Missouri scale.
Whereas on the Washington Assessment scale Xander scored 6 for Criminal History and 7 for Social History Risk, placing him in the Moderate Risk category. This scale takes into account Xander’s age. However his length of stay in Washington state is not made known for this assessment. The Washington scale provides scores also for misdemeanors, but also clarifies criminal offence referrals by using sub-categories, such as against-people misdemeanors and weapons referrals, which are not used in the Missouri scale.
The Washington scale is more comprehensive with regard to criminal referrals. The items in both sections are more difficult to score in the Washington version as the format makes the items somewhat ambiguous. However, the use of a matrix to score the Washington scale provides more categories for youth offenders to be assigned to, and so seems to have more flexibility as to what level an offender will be assigned. It appears that in this case there is a non-concurrent validity across the two tests as they yield a different level of risk. Although without running statistical tests it is unable to be said if the two tests do not measure the same things.
It appears at first glance that the Washington is more comprehensive in the quantitative information it seeks about the youth offender, however the Missouri looks quicker and easier to administer and score, so in theory would likely yield a more accurate rating. The advantage of the Washington scale is the inclusion of an age category above that of 16, the use of a decision making matrix for scoring, and the inclusion of a pre-screen attitude/behavior indicator to inquire into reports of violence and sexual aggression, perceptions of responsibility and pro-social values, and attitude toward use of aggression (verbal and physical) to solve conflict.
Additional information to more completely fill out the assessments would have included; how long have lived in their state, and if have travelled interstate; how long they have had their main friendships, who do they consider to be in their support network; do they feel that they achieve their personal goal and do they have any; rating of their attachment relationship with a significant adult carer; and to gauge a rating of their perceived self-esteem.
Suggested interventions for each case are as follows. Both youths need to make contact with a counsellor to determine if there is underlying emotional, personality or learning issues that may constrain their ability to function within society as teenagers. If needed long-term (over 6 months) counselling should be organised for each of them. It may also be of benefit for Colleen to attend a few group sessions for substance abuse if she discloses to the counsellor that her use is abusive. At the very least an alcohol and drug awareness workshop would aid her in making informed decisions. Colleen also needs to attend a Day Treatment centre to learn to find new ways to deal with conflict situations.
Xander would benefit from a mentoring program where he could be paired with a responsible and motivating peer, or adult. A mentor would enable and empower Xander to contact tutor services and to prepare for his G.ED. For example helping to plan what he needs to do, how to manage his time, how to record important contact information and how to source a variety of opinions and facts to make informed decisions. Xander would also benefit form some social skills programs that helped him to expand his support network and to make other friends that are not associated with gangs, such as an outdoor club, sports or volunteer program. His mum and he would likely also benefit from family counselling to help them to communicate and support each other better.
In conclusion, although the two scales have many similarities they also differ in key aspects such as; age appropriateness; comprehensiveness of data gathering; length, and scoring difficulty. The Missouri scale could be argued to score rather more rigidly, although this may be of benefit to “err on the side of caution” however it could also be too extreme and counterproductive is some cases.