"The Credible Messenger Initiative" at the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) is a transformative, mentoring intervention program for youth committed to the agency, with a restorative justice philosophy for young people in the community at large. The mission of the initiative is to connect all young people in the care and custody of DYRS to healthy homes and supportive communities, and to provide preventative supports to all youth in Washington D.C.
Credible messengers are neighborhood leaders, experienced youth advocates and individuals with relevant life experiences whose role is to help youth transform attitudes and behaviors around violence. They serve young people whose needs go far beyond the traditional mentoring approach of companionship, confidence-building and typical academic, social or career guidance. They are able to connect with the most challenging young people because they:
- Come from the same communities,
- Are formerly incarcerated or were involved in the justice system,
- Have turned their lives around,
- Demonstrate integrity and transformation, and
- Are skilled and trained in mentoring young people.
The guiding principles of the Credible Messenger Initiative are to:
- Promote family and community engagement,
- Engage Parent Peer Coaches, who are Credible Messengers in their own right as they help other families navigate the justice system based on their own involvement and family experiences,
- Connect young people to caring adults in their home communities,
- Provide healthy family/community placement,
- Enhance the agency’s role in city-wide violence prevention efforts,
- Improve services to youth in the community,
- Connect youth to resources and relationships to ensure their success, and
- Create job opportunities for DC residents that build on the strengths of natural community leaders (Credible Messengers).
The Conclusion? THE ANSWER IS IN THE COMMUNITY.