Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $705,856)
The Urban Institute, in collaboration with the National Association of Court Management and the National Council on Juvenile Justice, proposes a two-phased, mixed-method, 36-month study. The purpose of this proposed study is twofold. First, to document how local communities across the country implement policies, practices, and programs to reduce justice system contact for youth at risk of being arrested, charged, or adjudicated for truancy and runaway status offenses. Second, to conduct evaluability assessments in three local jurisdictions implementing promising approaches that go beyond simply complying with DSO to identify places that might be ready for rigorous outcome/impact evaluation to learn how such innovations affect both youth and the systems in which they are implemented. During Phase 1, we will conduct a comprehensive scan of policies, practices, and programs for complying with DSO requirements via two surveys: an initial survey of a nationally representative sample of court administrators paired with a follow-up survey of their local child welfare, education, and/or other youth-serving community partners. We will document DSO efforts related to: prevention, screening and assessment; decision making around intake, detention, and dispositions; diversion processes/alternatives; court processes; treatment and service delivery; and collaboration with schools and other child-serving agencies and learn about respondents’ perceptions of output metrics related to these practices. Phase 2 will build on Phase 1 survey data to identify three local jurisdictions implementing particularly promising approaches for deep dive evaluability assessments (EAs) during which we will gauge each jurisdictions’ readiness for outcome/impact evaluation. We will do in-person site visits to conduct semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders from juvenile justice agencies and community organizations, and focus groups with the primary stakeholders related to these practices: youth and their families/guardians. For jurisdictions meeting minimum criteria of evaluability, we will develop outcome/impact evaluation plans for future projects to test the above outcomes. Results from this study will build knowledge about DSO approaches nationwide and inform recommendations for juvenile justice system improvements to prevent institutionalization of youth and possibly justice-involvement of youth entirely, which can inform ongoing training and technical assistance and policymaking on these issues. This work will also inform strategies to prevent the long-term consequences of justice involvement during adolescence. The results of this study will be documented in a suite of products geared to research, practice, and policy audiences and disseminated through a variety of channels.