Blog: No bio box

Digging Deeper: Report on Justice-Involved Youth with Mental Health Needs

A new report, “Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System [PDF],” details effective responses to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system. The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change's report highlights the scope of the problem, identifies scientific breakthroughs, and encourages community-based treatment interventions that provide more appropriate, effective responses to youth with mental health needs. 
The key takeaway from the report explains:

Whenever safe and appropriate, youth with mental health needs should be prevented from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place.

View or download the report in full [PDF].

New Report Details Effects of Mentoring on Teens

MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership recently released "The Mentoring Effect: Young People's Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring.”Via the press release (emphasis mine):

The publication links mentoring to significant life outcomes for youth and highlights a substantial gap that exists in America: one in three young people will reach adulthood without having a mentor. A nationally representative survey of youth informs this report, which reveals that at-risk youth with mentors are much more likely to attend college, participate in extracurricular activities, take on leadership roles, and regularly volunteer in their communities. The publication outlines opportunities for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to integrate mentoring as a key youth development strategy.

View or download the report and executive summary.

Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Massachusetts Begins Juvenile Justice Initiative (
    Massachusetts has launched an initiative to reduce recidivism by signing a contract for the largest pay-for-success financial investment in the country. The goal is to improve the lives of nearly 400 at-risk youth in western Massachusetts, reduce crime, and save taxpayers money.
  • Kids For Cash: Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals (
    This special on "kids for cash," details the shocking story of how thousands of children in Pennsylvania were jailed by two corrupt judges who received $2.6 million in kickbacks from the builders and owners of private prison facilities.
  • The JJIE Interview: Bart Lubow, the Man Behind JDAI (
    JJIE asked Lubow, 66, to talk about his tenure and legacy at Casey, particularly JDAI, the nation’s most widely replicated juvenile reform effort, now operating at more than 250 sites in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Edited excerpts of the interview are included.

Topics: News, No bio box

Improve Diversion for Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders

Will yours be one of five states selected to receive expert technical assistance to help young people? You won't know if you don't apply.
Applications are being accepted for Improving Diversion Policies and Programs for Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders: An Integrated Policy Academy-Action Network Initiative, made possible with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Selected states will convene core teams of senior-level officials at the state and local levels to implement a school-based or probation-intake diversion program for youth with behavioral health disorders. This work will emphasize:

  • Decreasing the unnecessary involvement of youth with behavioral health problems in the justice system
  • Using research-based screening and assessment practices
  • Recognizing the important role of evidence-based and trauma-informed practice and treatment
  • Increasing collaboration among stakeholders to facilitate access to community treatment and services
  • Reducing the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system

The full announcement and application materials are available for download at Applications will be accepted through Friday, February 28, 2014. 

OJJDP Relaunches Updated Model Programs Guide

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has relaunched its Model Programs Guide (MPG), an online resource of more than 180 evidence-based prevention, intervention, and reentry programs for juvenile justice practitioners, policymakers, and communities.
MPG now uses the Office of Justice Programs’ program review process and includes programs addressing a variety of topics, including child victimization, substance abuse, youth violence, mental health and trauma, and gang activity. In addition to providing program profiles, MPG offers information on program implementation, literature reviews, and resource links. Via the website:

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP’s) Model Programs Guide (MPG) contains information about evidence-based juvenile justice and youth prevention, intervention, and reentry programs. It is a resource for practitioners and communities about what works, what is promising, and what does not work in juvenile justice, delinquency prevention, and child protection and safety.
MPG uses expert study reviewers and’s program review process, scoring instrument, and evidence ratings. The two sites also share a common database of juvenile-related programs.

Topics: No bio box

New Webinar Series, Girls Matter!, Addresses Adolescent Girls’ Behavioral Health

It's no secret that adolescence is a time of transition with unique challenges and pressures for both girls and boys. The Girls Matter! webinar series aims to turn the attention to how these challenges and pressures affect adolescent girls. One in four adolescent girls experiences a behavioral health problem, but research shows a gap in services, support, and important behavioral health care for adolescent girls—the very tools that help girls successfully transition into adulthood.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is launching Girls Matter! in an effort to bridge the gap between services, support and health care for adolescent girls with behavioral problems by providing professionals with information about the critical needs of girls today. The six-part series features professionals from multiple fields and specialties who share a passion for helping teen girls thrive. Continuing Education Hours NAADAC and NBCC CEHs are available through the ATTC Network Coordinating Office.

Tribal Juvenile Justice Outdated; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Big Difference Between Juvenile, Adult Courts (
    If the teenager accused of stabbing to death her 11-year-old half-sister is charged as a juvenile and eventually found guilty, she could serve as little as seven years in detention. If she's charged with murder as an adult and convicted, she could serve as many as 60. That's just one of the differences in how the rules can differ for young people accused of serious crimes.
  • Tribal Juvenile Justice Outdated (
    Although Native Americans make up little more than 1 percent of the nation’s population, a 10-year study found that at any given time, 43 percent to 60 percent of juveniles held in federal custody were Native Americans, a wildly disproportionate number.
  • Center for Health Program Management Announces Implementation of $4.5 Million Initiative to Transform California's Juvenile Justice Systems (
    he Center for Health Program Management, and funding partners Sierra Health Foundation, The California Endowment and The California Wellness Foundation announced that $1.6 million in grant funding has been awarded to four counties to implement an innovative approach to juvenile justice reform known as the Positive Youth Justice Initiative.

Topics: News, No bio box

Status Offending Youth: Report Stresses Assistance Over Prosecution

The Vera Institute of Justice Status Offense Reform Center recently released From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away and Other Status Offenses, a white paper emphasizing assistance over prosecution for status offending youth. 
According to Vera, "Youth who run away from home, routinely skip school, and engage in other risky behaviors that are prohibited precisely because of their young age, are acting out in ways that should concern the adults in their lives. They need appropriate attention—but not from the juvenile justice system."

To avoid deeper involvement in the system, Vera suggests an effective community-based response that features:

1. Diversion from court. Keeping kids out of court requires having mechanisms in place that actively steer families away from the juvenile justice system and toward community-based services.

2. An immediate response. Families trying to cope with behaviors that are considered status offenses may need assistance right away from trained professionals who can work with them, often in their home, to de-escalate the situation. In some cases, families also benefit from a cool-down period in which the young person spends a few nights outside of the home in a respite center.

3. A triage process. Through careful screening and assessment, effective systems identify needs and tailor services accordingly. Some families require only brief and minimal intervention—a caring adult to listen and help the family navigate the issues at hand. At the other end of the spectrum are families that need intensive and ongoing support and services to resolve problems.

4. Services that are accessible and effective. Easy access is key. If services are far away, alienating, costly, or otherwise difficult to use, families may opt out before they can meaningfully address their needs. Equally important, local services must engage the entire family, not just the youth, and be proven to work based on objective evidence.
5. Internal assessment. Regardless of how well new practices are designed and implemented, there are bound to be some that run more smoothly than others, at least at first. Monitoring outcomes and adjusting practices as needed are essential to be effective and also to sustain support for new practices.

Learn more about communities that have successfully implemented community-based responses by accessing the full white paper for free on

Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide

Earlier this month, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published a guide detailing a drug abuse approach that goes way beyond "Just Say No!" The guide, "Presents research-based principles of adolescent substance use disorder treatment; covers treatment for a variety of drugs including, illicit and prescription drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; presents settings and evidence-based approaches unique to treating adolescents." Via the report:

People are most likely to begin abusing drugs—including tobacco, alcohol, and illegal and prescription drugs—during adolescence and young adulthood.
By the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a nonmedical purpose.1 There are many reasons adolescents use these substances, including the desire for new experiences, an attempt to deal with problems or perform better in school, and simple peer pressure. Adolescents are “biologically wired” to seek new experiences and take risks, as well as to carve out their own identity. Trying drugs may fulfill all of these normal developmental drives, but in an unhealthy way that can have very serious long-term consequences.
Many factors influence whether an adolescent tries drugs, including the availability of drugs within the neighborhood, community, and school and whether the adolescent’s friends are using them. The family environment is also important: Violence, physical or emotional abuse, mental illness, or drug use in the household increase the likelihood an adolescent will use drugs. Finally, an adolescent’s inherited genetic vulnerability; personality traits like poor impulse control or a high need for excitement; mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD; and beliefs such as that drugs are “cool” or harmless make it more likely that an adolescent will use drugs.

Get the full publication on >>

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

Below you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance abuse and teen mental health areas. It's free to browse and post!


Crime and Punishment with Psychologist Evan Elkin

Comedian Jake Johannsen recently got serious (well, a little more serious than usual) with psychologist Evan Elkin during his Jakethis podcast. The two sat down and talked about the juvenile justice system, and problems with how we handle crime and punishment. The podcast is embedded below for your listening pleasure. Jump to the 18 minute mark for the discussion of the juvenile justice system.  

When Children Become Criminals; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings (The New York Times)
    In decisions widely hailed as milestones, the United States Supreme Court in 2010 and 2012 acted to curtail the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption.
  • Juvenile Justice Debate Continues As Teen Serves 70 Year Sentence (
    Is a 70 year sentence without parole for a 14-year-old effectively the same as life in prison? Jacksonville’s Shimeek Gridine is a plaintiff in a lawsuit before the Florida Supreme Court that will decide whether his harsh sentence violates the federal constitution.
  • When Children Become Criminals (The New York Times)
    New York is one of two states, the other being North Carolina, in which 16-year-olds are automatically tried as adults. This is the case despite overwhelming evidence that sending children into adult courts, rather than the juvenile justice system, needlessly destroys lives and further endangers the public by turning nonviolent youngsters into hardened criminals.

Topics: News, No bio box

Breakthrough: Mental Health Solutions for Teens in the Juvenile Justice System

Did you know that around 70 percent of all youth in contact with the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder? 
A new white paper by the Collaborative for Change—a training, technical assistance and education center and a member of the Models for Change Resource Center Partnership—discusses the scope of this problem, scientific breakthroughs that can help, and how communities can adopt better solutions for youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.
In the white paper, Better Solutions for Youth with Mental Health Needs in the Juvenile Justice System, the substantive focus of the Collaborative for Change includes: 

1. Mental health screening within juvenile justice settings
2. Diversion strategies and models for youth with mental
health needs
3. Adolescent mental health training for juvenile justice
staff and police
4. Guidance around the implementation of evidence-based
5. Training and resources to support family involvement in
the juvenile justice system
6. Juvenile competency

Access the full white paper on

Help Teens Shatter Myths About Drugs and Drug Abuse

Many teens are not aware of the serious risks drugs and alcohol pose to their health, success in school and future. What can communities do to effectively educate teens about the risks of drug abuse? One way is for school staff, parents, and students to work together to get the truth out.
During this year’s National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a national health observance designed to arm communities with the materials and tools they need to counteract the myths about drug abuse, science teachers, health teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, drug prevention programs, and community support programs will use science-based information, available free from NIDA, in their curriculum, school assemblies, PTA meetings, and evening workshops.
Inspired by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institute of Health, NDFW is in its fourth year, and will be held from January 27 through February 2, 2014.
In the wake of new recommendations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America, the time is ripe to encourage communities and leaders to work together to improve the health of our nation by investing in children.
Close to 1,000 events are planned this year to focus on communicating with teens about drug use and its consequences. Some examples include:

  • Addiction-themed art contests
  • Trivia nights
  • School assemblies
  • Panel discussions
  • Government proclamations

Using ideas and resources provided by NIDA, there is a way for everyone to learn the facts and help shatter myths about drug abuse during National Drug Facts Week and beyond.
For more information, visit the National Drug Facts Week website or email

OP-ED: Reducing Youth Crime by Treating Substance Abuse

 Note: this post originally appeared on and is reprinted with their permission.
One of the most effective and long-running efforts to change both policies and practices in juvenile justice is Reclaiming Futures, housed at the Regional Research Institute for Human Services of the School of Social Work at Portland State University in Oregon. The organization began in 2001 with a $21 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and initially went to work in 10 communities.
Now they are active in 39 communities in 18 states. Their six-step model tracks various phases of youth involvement with the justice system and brings together “judges, probation officers, substance abuse treatment professionals and community members” to provide the services that kids need to address their needs and make the community safer.
The main focus of the approach is treating substance abuse, a behavior strongly linked to youth crime and delinquency. The six steps seek to identify drug and alcohol use early on in the youth’s encounter with the justice system, then ensure quality treatment, support and transition back to everyday life.
Since its beginning, Reclaiming Futures has been dedicated to data collection and evaluation, and independent analysis of the founding communities has shown improvement in quality of service, improved efficiency of service delivery, improved outcomes for kids and an overall savings when compared to more traditional approaches.
The current director, Susan Richardson, wrote a post last week entitled “How to Help More Kids in 2014.” She writes: “Did you know that 343,000 teens are arrested each year in the United States for drug and alcohol related crimes, yet only one in 16 teens who need treatment receive it?” Problems like this are at the heart of what Reclaiming Futures seek to change. All too often the facts have little to do with how youth crime and delinquency are addressed.
With a commitment to processes and interventions that work, and that are both trackable and repeatable, Reclaiming Futures has made a deep and sustainable impact on the communities where their approach has been implemented. Let’s hope their work is spread further around the country in the coming year.

Award Dinner Honors Piper Kerman; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

Topics: News, No bio box

Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities

In 2008, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) convened the Commission to Build a Healthier America to find better ways to improve the health of our nation.
In their search for solutions, the Commissioners found that where we live, learn, work, and play profoundly influences our health.
The new recommendations, released January 13, are aimed at improving health now and for generations to come, and specifically highlight the need to:

  • Prioritize investments in America's youngest children.
  • Encourage leaders in different sectors to work together to create communities where healthy decisions are possible, with a particular emphasis on community development.
  • Challenge health professionals and health care institutions to expand their focus from treating illness to helping people live healthy lives.

Reclaiming Futures supports RWJF's effort and continues to unite juvenile courts, probation, mental health treatment, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and the community to reclaim youth.
We'd love to hear from you. How can the Commission's recommendations change the way communities invest in young people? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.