JJ and his family know what happens.
JJ had been taken into custody multiple times for stealing cars. A teenage survivor of childhood trauma, he was always referred to counseling as part of his court supervision. But once he was off supervision, his progress wouldn’t stick. He’d steal another car, betaken into custody again, and the cycle would repeat.
Then, something shifted.
The St. Louis Court that oversees JJ’s case is an FFI partner, taking groundbreaking steps to improve outcomes for kids and families. The court is tapping people’s innate drive for wellbeing—the set of needs and experiences essential to weather challenges and have health and hope. They’re changing practice, policy, and culture. They’re demonstrating that lasting change is possible. That systems change is possible.
The next time JJ was in court, the court officer took a mentoring and community reintegration approach that tapped JJ’s skills and talents, digging into what need stealing the cars had met and helping him find alternative ways of meeting those needs.
The court officer didn’t just see the pain and what was broken. He surfaced and nurtured the bright spots in JJ’s life, and worked with JJ’s family as well. He sought out information and conversations that didn’t confirm initial impressions, and maybe even challenged them. He began to see JJ and his family differently.
Several months after JJ’s case was closed, he drove a car that his court officer didn’t recognize into the court’s parking lot. When JJ met with his court officer, he showed him his new driver’s license and registration for a car he had legally purchased with his own money, saved from the job he was holding down even as he was completing school.
JJ worked incredibly hard for this. So did his family and the court officer. And so did the St. Louis court system that shifted to a focus on fostering wellbeing, a focus that short-circuits the forces that otherwise pull people backwards after they’ve made progress.
That’s why JJ’s story isn’t an aberration. It’s increasingly probable, thanks to trailblazing agency leaders, community members, staff, and activists —all determined to do the really hard work of shifting their perspectives from short-term problem fixes to fostering people’s long-term wellbeing.
And so in St. Louis, as in other Missouri and Massachusetts communities, FFI and our partners aren’t just demonstrating what’s possible; we’re making it harder for the status quo to remain the status quo.
The shifts we catalyze are lasting and revelatory. From new court supervision processes and structures in St. Louis to new approaches that address homelessness in Massachusetts, to new tools to help domestic violence survivors across the country, this is deep structural change that’s sticking for thousands of individuals and their families. It’s change that’s rerouting trajectories so that more JJs drive their own cars to their new jobs, and show up on an employer’s radar screen for a promotion, instead of on the court’s radar screen for an offense.
It’s clear we’re onto something. And it’s clear that at this moment in our country’s history, our work is needed more than ever before. But we can only do more with your help.
We all need a country that recognizes and fosters wellbeing for everyone regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, dis/ability, or religion. FFI is a piece of the puzzle to get us all there, and so are you. Allies like you fund two-thirds of the change FFI unleashes.
So be hopeful. Be a changemaker. And be generous. Because FFI can’t do its part without you doing yours.