Blog: Reclaiming Futures

Apply Now for Reclaiming Futures Judicial Training

juvenile-court_judges-crossing-streetMaking change in the juvenile justice system to help teens with drug and alcohol problems requires a strong community leader who can convene diverse players, some of whom are not used to working together. Judges are uniquely placed to take on this role.
That's why we're offering two trainings for juvenile court judges new to the Reclaiming Futures model, titled, "Leading Change in the Juvenile Justice System for Teens with Drug and Alcohol Problems." (see below for details). 

Stopping the Revolving Door: Advances in Juvenile Justice in the National Drug Control Strategy

adolescent-substance-abuse-juvenile-justice_staircaseEliminating the revolving door of the criminal and juvenile justice systems is one of the Nation’s biggest challenges in reducing the devastating consequences of drug use. It deprives our youngest generations of their chance to lead healthy, safe and productive lives, and often fosters intergenerational violence. That’s why the Obama Administration is taking steps to prevent young people from becoming involved in drug use and crime, and providing intervention, treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and reentry support for those that do.
Last year, the Administration released its inaugural strategy for coordinating national drug control activities and reducing the effects of drug use and its consequences and stressed the need for effective substance abuse treatment for adolescents. The week before last, the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy built upon that foundation and expanded support for these efforts. Evidence-based, early interventions are critical tools to keep young people from cycling in and out of the juvenile justice system, or worse, entering and cycling through the adult system. Youth should not only be screened and treated for substance use problems, but also for unmet emotional, behavioral, or academic needs.

VIDEO: Dr. Howard Liddle on Engaging and Changing Troubled Youth

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_Howard-LiddleBack in 1974, sociologist Robert Martinson reviewed the research and concluded that "nothing worked" when it came to rehabilitating offenders. Then, in the mid-1990s, when fears about rising juvenile crime rates were at their peak, John DiIulio of Princeton predicted an onslaught of teens in trouble with the law, whom he dubbed "super-predators," creating a toxic political environment for those who knew from experience that youth in the justice system were overwhelmingly capable of positive change and rehabilitation. 
Martinson and DiIulio were wrong. Most importantly, Martinson's research was flawed, and he admitted his errors in print. [For this history and much more, see "Juvenile Justice: Lessons for a New Era."]
But the myths remain -- and they get in the way of our ability to take advantage of new, evidence-based treatments that are exceptionally effective.
So argues Dr. Howard Liddle, of the Center for Treatment Research on Adolescent Drug Abuse (CTRADA) at the University of Miami, in the brief video below:

Karen Pittman: Helping Teens Beat the Odds Is Not Enough (Video)

Isn't it great when you see a young person beat the odds? You know what I mean -- you'll read a story or see a video about a teen who struggled with drugs, alcohol, and crime, and somehow overcame all of that (and probably more) ... and it just makes you feel fantastic, doesn't it?
Well, it should. But Karen Pittman, CEO and Founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, has an even more inspiring idea, which she shared in an interview at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

You can also see Karen's full presentation at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute here. 

Dr. Jeffrey Butts on Positive Youth Development in Juvenile Justice (Video Interview)

Positive youth development is a key part of Reclaiming Futures. But what the heck is "positive youth development?" According to juvenile justice researcher Dr. Jeffrey Butts, it blends what we know about adolescent development and what we know about effective services.
But don't take it from me -- here's a brief interview on the subject that I did with Dr. Butts at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:

Bonus: here's how to implement positive youth development in the juvenile justice system.

The Supreme Court Updates Miranda Warnings for Teens; Plus Six Conferences and 40 Years of Drug War: a Roundup

This week, I've got a monster roundup of news, grant opportunities, and conferences related to the juvenile justice system and (a little) about adolescent substance abuse treatment and behavioral healthcare for kids. Here goes:

  • Reclaiming Futures Nassau County: Football Star Andrew Quarless Speaks to Juvenile Drug Court Graduates
  • U.S. Supreme Court Says Age Matters When it Comes to Miranda Warnings
    Miranda warnings must be given by police when a suspect is being interrogated in a custodial setting. What's considered custody or the degree to which a suspect is being restrained are what matters here: in this case, a 13-year-old in North Carolina was interrogated on school grounds by a police officer about alleged crimes committed off-campus. He was not read his Miranda rights; his lawyers argued that his subsequent confession was therefore inadmissible. North Carolina's Supreme Court said his age wasn't relevant -- arguing, as I understand it, that the youth was not in a custodial situation and could have left. In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, writing that, “It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances would feel free to leave.” (Hat tips to the Juvenile Law Center and the National Juvenile Justice Network.)

Creating a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles in the Justice System

juvenile-justice-reform_hands-coming-together[Testimony given April 2011 by John Roman, Ph.D., before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee on Human Services. Reprinted with permission from The Urban Institute. -Ed.]
Good morning. My name is John Roman and I am a senior fellow in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, where I have studied innovative crime and justice policies and programs for more than a decade. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today about integrating innovative practices to better serve juveniles involved with the justice system and to improve public safety.
Using Lessons from Recent Innovations to Create a Holistic Approach to Intervening with Juveniles
Over the last decade, across the United States, there has been tremendous interest in reforming juvenile and criminal justice systems to both improve their performance and to improve public safety by reducing crime and delinquency among adjudicated youth. What I would like to describe today is how those innovative practices—the Reclaiming Futures initiative, drugs courts and other alternatives to commitment, and Project HOPE—might be integrated to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs.
In the first phase of Reclaiming Futures, begun in 2002, multidisciplinary teams in ten communities worked collaboratively to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. All ten projects relied on judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, interorganizational performance management, enhanced treatment quality, and multiagency partnerships to improve their systems of care for youthful offenders with substance abuse problems.

Families of Youth with Substance Use Disorders: A National Dialogue

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_national-family-dialogue-report-coverReclaiming Futures just sponsored a webinar by Dr. Howard Liddle on the clinical importance of working with the families of teens in the justice system as well as the young people themselves -- follow the link to listen to the webinar or download the slides -- but family involvement is critical in other areas as well, from program planning to policy-making. 
And as it happens, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is seeking comments on its proposed changes to its block grants (including target populations) -- comments are due this Friday, June 3, 2011 -- so it seems like a good time to remind everyone that in 2009, SAMHSA convened a group of family members from all across the country to look at barriers to their involvement, opportunities for change, and to make recommendations for improvement. 

Susan Richardson on Reclaiming Futures and What's Next

Background: On May 18 and 19, 2011, Reclaiming Futures hosted its biannual Leadership Institute for its participating sites. Held in Miami, the Institute featured presentations from leaders in the fields of youth work and juvenile justice. 

About This Archived Webcast: On Wednesday, May 18, Susan Richardson, Reclaiming Futures' new national director, gave a 30-minute presentation on her vision for Reclaiming Futures, the North Carolina experience and what to look forward to in the next six months.


Gordon Bazemore on Youth Development, Restorative Justice, and Social Capital and Restorative Decision-making

Background: On May 18 and 19, 2011, Reclaiming Futures hosted its biannual Leadership Institute for its participating sites. Held in Miami this year, the Institute featured presentations from leaders in the fields of youth work and juvenile justice. 

About This Archived Webcast: On Thursday, May 19, Dr. Gordon Bazemore, a leading expert in restorative justice and juvenile justice, gave a three-part presentation on youth development, restorative justice, and social capital and "restorative decision-making." >>Download the presentation slides.


Karen Pittman on Positive Youth Development and Teens in the Juvenile Justice System (Video)

Background: On May 18 and 19, 2011, Reclaiming Futures hosted its biannual Leadership Institute for its participating sites. Held in Miami, the Institute featured presentations from leaders in the fields of youth work and juvenile justice. 

About This Video: On May 18, 2011, Karen Pittman, a national leader in youth development work, gave a one-hour presentation on positive youth development—what it is, what it means, and how it can help communities make better decisions about their young people, including those in the juvenile justice system.  It was broadcast live and then posted as an archived video. 


Part two -- about the last three minutes of Karen's speech -- is below the break:

Is Medicaid Irrelevant? - Weekly Roundup

  • juvenile-justice-reform_state-trends-coverLegislative Victories Removing Youth from Adult Criminal Justice System
    The Campaign for Youth Justice released a report on the growing number of states changing their policies to keep more kids out of adult lockup.
  • Hardin County, OH Embraces Reclaiming Futures
    Reclaiming Futures Hardin County got great coverage in the March 26, 2011 issue of the Kenton Times. Random quotes: Scott Mitchell, treatment court graduate, said, “I did a complete 180." Judge James Rapp: "If we are there for [the kids], they will be successful.” Follow the link to learn more.
  • Do it YO Way - Mentors Guide Youth in Bristol County, MA
    After receiving training in anti-oppressive practices (follow link and scroll to find webinars, PowerPoints, and other resources), the Reclaiming Futures Bristol County team "developed 'YO', a pilot program which exposed seven young men from diverse ethnic backgrounds to the practices of oppressiveness and privilege."

    In an intense, 12-week program, they worked with adult mentors on "how to be successful in the face of the challenges they face in their daily lives."

    As Deirdre Lopes, director of the H.O.P.E. (Healthy Opportunities for Peaceful Engagement) Collaborative said, "We can tell them whatever we want, but there's no substitute for showing them. That's what really has an impact."

    Click the headline to see the April 5, 2011 story from South Coast Today.

Investing in Reclaiming Futures Webinar

juvenile-justice-reform_Investing-in-Reclaiming-Futures-documentWe're sponsoring a free one-hour webinar, “Investing in Reclaiming Futures,” on January 20, 2011 at 10:30 am PST / 1:30 pm EST. It's designed specifically for public agencies, policymakers, and foundations wanting to learn more about the Reclaiming Futures model and how the model has been adopted as a cost-effective juvenile justice reform initiative. 
The webinar will:

  1. review the need for system improvement for young people involved with juvenile justice and substance abuse;
  2. describe the Reclaiming Futures model;
  3. describe a statewide framework for Reclaiming Futures, and
  4. discuss the role of public policy makers and foundations in adopting Reclaiming Futures as a framework at the state level. 

Three More Communities Implement the Reclaiming Futures Model

juvenile-justice-reform_money-smartiesThree more communities will be implementing the Reclaiming Futures model, thanks to $4.1  million in funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). That brings the number of Reclaiming Futures communities to 29 in 17 states.
Each of the grantees will be implementing the model over four years in a juvenile drug court, with the aim of reducing substance abuse among youth in the juvenile justice system:

Congratulations! We look forward to working with them.
>>Read the complete news release, with statements from SAMHSA, OJJDP, RWJF.

JMATE 2010 Presentations from Reclaiming Futures

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_agenda-graffitiExcited about the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) conference 2010, coming up next week, December 14-16, 2010? I definitely am. It looks like a closer-to-complete agenda has now been posted, and I can tell you, just scanning it gives me goosebumps.
Just to pick an example at random: Laurence Steinberg [follow link and scroll to the second bullet down] will be doing a plenary session on "Why Adolescents Make Risky Decisions." Since it's primarily Steinberg's research that the Supreme Court has used in its recent decisions doing away with the death penalty for juveniles and life without parole, I don't think anyone will want to miss it.
To pick another example: John Roman of The Urban Institute will be talking about "effective juvenile drug courts." Another topic of wide interest.
But what I want to highlight today are the presentations that individuals in our Reclaiming Futures family will be making.  Here's a complete list:

Reclaiming Futures Relaunches Website

juvenile-justice-reform-adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment_Reclaiming-Futures-web-siteIt's been nearly 10 years since Reclaiming Futures first launched its website focused on its six-step model promoting juvenile justice reform and adolescent substance abuse treatment.
A lot has changed since then. Which is why we've revamped our website at to help you find what you're looking for more easily.
For example, you can:

Job Announcement: Reclaiming Futures National Executive Director

juvenile-justice-reform_taking-applications-signBelieve in juvenile justice reform? Want to lead a national initiative to disseminate a proven six-step model that allows communities to help teens break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime?
Now's your chance.
Back in June, Laura Burney Nissen announced that she would be stepping down as national director of Reclaiming Futures. The job opening has now been posted, and a national search is under way for a new national executive director.  >>Download the application.
P.S. Please share with friends and colleagues you think might be interested. 
Photo: capturingJenna.

Reclaiming Futures Cited as One of Five Models for System Reform for At-Risk Youth

juvenile-justice-reform_stack-of-booksReclaiming Futures is featured in, "Models to Guide System Reform for At-Risk Youth," which appeared online July 4 in Child and Youth Care Forum. (Sorry -- I can only link to the abstract.)
The authors, Susan A. McCarter, Mason G. Haber, and Donna Kazemi, ransacked the research literature for reform models that could help policy makers. They noted that although youth in the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems have complex issues -- and coordinating multiple services to provide appropriate care for them is difficult -- there's actually very little guidance on how to do it well. They found five promising models, however, and I'm pleased to say that Reclaiming Futures (ahem) was one of them.

Roundup: Juvenile Justice Reform at a Crossroads

juvenile-justice-reform_old-TVJuvenile Justice Reform in Jeopardy, or Headed for a Golden Age? 

  • The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) may be in trouble, if Congress reauthorizes it without increased funding for states to comply. That could mean that cash-strapped states may opt out, despite its long success and the high marks given to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for the training and technical assistance it provides to support the JJDPA. What would happen in your state, if the federal allocation was reduced or stayed the same?