The “Missouri Approach” to juvenile justice emphasizes moving beyond symptoms to the root causes of juvenile delinquency so that changes made by young people are long-lasting, preparing them to return and contribute positively to their school, home, and community.

The Missouri Division of Youth Services (DYS), housed within the Department of Social Services since 1974, has long been praised as a juvenile justice pioneer. DYS uses a therapeutic youth development approach to treatment, as opposed to the more traditional correctional model. One of the important characteristics of what has come to be called the “Missouri Approach” is a focus on family and community engagement within the treatment paradigm. “Just as there has been an increased understanding of adolescent development and adolescent brain development nationally, so too has there been an increased appreciation, within the Juvenile Justice field, for the critical role that families play in the lives of their children,” says Phyllis Becker, Director of DYS.

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