LAMOD focuses on a therapeutic, child-centered environment versus a traditional adult correctional/custodial model. The key to LAMOD's success is to treat youth with dignity and respect. Emphasis is on relationship-building that affords youth the opportunity to belong and contribute to a group, make meaningful choices, develop transferable skills and mentor their peers. Physical characteristics of LAMOD feature a more homelike environment in secure care facilities, with dorm sizes reduced from an average of 37 to 10-12 youth in each one. Group processes led by Treatment staff and Youth Care Workers, (a newly established job title created to work with LAMOD) take place in the dorms and include treatment and counseling. Weekly team meetings provide an opportunity for all staffs that work with youth to discuss progress and ways to support the youth.
Youth Services' Staff Development area has developed LAMOD training for new and veteran secure care staff. Participants receive intensive training during a seven-week course, including instruction in the differences between the traditional correctional approach to juvenile justice, and the new therapeutic approach, which is child-centered and treatment-oriented.
LAMOD is seen as a national model for juvenile justice reform, and groups around the nation have taken notice of the program. Youth Services' Staff Development Director and coordinators co-presented "Therapeutic Team Building Activities" at the National Juvenile Services Training Institute in Indianapolis in June 2006. The Casey Foundation continues to support OJJ by "manualizing" the reform effort in Louisiana in order to share these initiatives with other state agencies.
The LAMOD model has as it driving focus the recognition of the humanity of youth, their innate ability to change and act as change agents in their communities. Unfortunately, Louisiana has seen that problems with one youth in a family are usually indications that problems could occur with younger siblings. If these problems remain unaddressed, that is almost a certainty. By shifting the focus from custody to treatment, the youth and their families are provided the tools necessary to affect this outcome. Youth are engaged to actively participate in group problem resolution and mentoring techniques that will be useful upon return to their families and communities.
The agency recognizes that change must occur at all levels and begins with front-line staff. When staff is properly trained, reductions in turn-over, increased safety and improvements in youth reception to treatment result.