Community Treatment Programs for Juveniles: A Best-Evidence Summary

By Underwood, Lee A.; von Dresner, Kara Sandor et al. | The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Community Treatment Programs for Juveniles: A Best-Evidence Summary


Underwood, Lee A., von Dresner, Kara Sandor, Phillips, Annie L., The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy


Abstract

A significant challenge facing the juvenile justice system is the task of transitioning and reintegrating juveniles from youth corrections facilities back into the community. This challenge, in part, is related to determining whether the referred community programs are effective. This article summarizes the literature on the effectiveness of community programs for juveniles involved in the justice system, including defining characteristics of evidence-based programs and examining the relationship between youth characteristics and evidence-based practices. Model evidence-based programs are reviewed, providing a description of respective programs, treatment targets, and their outcomes. Limitations of evidence-based programs will be discussed and recommendations for the field will be summarized.

Key words: Community programs, juvenile justice, evidence-based programs, delinquents, treatment.

Introduction

The juvenile justice system is overwhelmed with the increasing number of youth who are arrested each year. In 2003 about 2.3 million youth under the age of 18 were arrested and over 130,000 are placed in detention and juvenile correctional facilities (Cocozza, Trupin, &Teodosio, 2003). As a result, the number of youth who are released back into society is growing; according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, approximately 100,000 youth are discharged from a juvenile correctional facility each year. This estimate is a modest one at best because when compared to adult offenders, juveniles actually spend less time in correctional facilities; therefore the actual percentage of juveniles returning to the community each year is much greater (Sickmund, 2000). Effective treatment programs are key in youth's successful reintegration back into their homes and communities. Gendreau and Goggin (1996) found that recidivism rates decreased by as much as 25 percent than those youth who did not participate in any institutional or community program. The most effective, however, are evidence based treatment programs as they can reduce recidivism from 25 percent to 80 percent (Gendreau, 1996 & The National Mental Health Association [NMHA], 2006). This poses a significant challenge to the juvenile justice system for it now has the task of diverting and reintegrating some incarcerated juveniles into some kind of treatment program. While evidence-based community programs are ideal, they are often underused for a variety of reasons. It is often difficult to determine what treatment programs are researched-based (Hoagwood, Burns, Kiser, Ringeisen and Schoenwald, 2001). Once this is done, the characteristics of a program must be complimentary or tailored to juveniles and their presenting problems. This involves properly identifying the youth who are appropriate for program and linking with community resources.

Another challenge that prevents the implementation of model programs is the interchangeable terms that are used in identifying research-based programs and the various definitions these terms hold. Juvenile justice systems must establish a universal language. Frequently used terms when discussing post-release programs include evidence-based, best practice, research-based and innovative practice. It is critical to exam the similarities and the differences of these types of treatment so that juvenile justice officials can choose evidence-based programs that are complimentary with the specialized needs of each juvenile in the juvenile justice system. Using a common language also helps researchers to further examine the unique characteristics of evidence-based programs (Burns, Hoagwood and Mrazek, 1999 & Beale & Jones-Walker, 2004).

Researchers endorse the idea that evidence-based programs in community settings are more effective than those in residential or institutional settings; however, further examination on the effectiveness of these programs is warranted (Altschuler & Armstrong 2002; Burns, et al. …

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