U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Thriving, Not Surviving: Refocusing Juvenile Justice Assessments and Strategies

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $89,763)

The rehabilitative goals of juvenile probation are to both reduce recidivism and to support youths’ success beyond recidivism. However, current juvenile assessment strategies narrowly focus on identifying what youth need to avoid reoffending, neglect what youth need to succeed, and view recidivism as a static outcome. The purpose of this project is to refocus juvenile assessment strategies to not only help youth survive probation without reoffending, but to thrive in their lives beyond justice system involvement. Centering outcomes of desistance (i.e., reductions in offending severity and/or frequency) and positive change, the proposed dissertation will conduct a rigorous psychometric evaluation of two juvenile assessment tools: (1) the current state mandated juvenile risk-needs assessment tool in Arizona (i.e., Arizona Youth Assessment System) and (2) a new open-access, change-based assessment tool built on principles of positive youth development. Partnering with a probation department in Arizona, the student will collect and merge official records from youths’ state mandated risk assessment tool and pilot data from the newly developed open access tool in order to (1) conduct an item-response theory assessment of each tool’s construct validity; (2) use regression-based approaches to validate how well each tool predicts youth desistance and positive behavioral change after six months; (3) identify potential racial/ethnic biases in tool performance; and (4) adjust assessment tools to address any discovered biases. Results from the project will be used to establish an evidence-basis for change-based juvenile assessment tools that align with the dual rehabilitative goals of juvenile probation, to develop formal metrics of positive change that can be used by juvenile court professionals, and to reduce racial/ethnic bias in the current assessment tool mandated by Arizona state code. Additionally, this project will rigorously evaluate a newly developed, open-access juvenile assessment tool with immediate utility to the partner county’s juvenile probation department and may provide a valuable foundation for the advancement of juvenile assessment strategies nationwide. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 14, 2023