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A Process Evaluation of the Continuum of Services Model in Virginia's Juvenile Justice System

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $749,995)

OJJDP’s Field Initiated Research and Evaluation Program supports innovative and methodologically sound research and evaluation efforts that inform policy and practice consistent with OJJDP’s mission to advance effective delinquency prevention and juvenile justice system interventions.

In an era of tight budgets and increased accountability, state governments are focused on investing more in what works. Previous research has indicated that diverting low-risk offenders and providing them with needed services is more effective at stemming future violence than formally processing these low-risk offenders through the juvenile justice system. There is also robust evidence that community-based alternatives to placement are not only more effective at reducing recidivism rates, these alternatives are less expensive than more punitive sanctions.

The Child Trends researchers will conduct a process evaluation of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) Continuum of Services Model (CSM). In January 2017, DJJ began implementation of its CSM after investing savings from closing state-run correctional centers into the development of a statewide continuum of evidence-based services and alternatives to placements in correctional centers. The goal of CSM is to increase the fairness and benefits of system involvement by reducing disparities in services in rural communities and ensuring that court-involved youth get the services they need, when and where they need them. Child Trends will partner with DJJ to conduct a process evaluation of this innovative system-wide improvement in its early stages.

The overarching goal of the evaluation is to provide meaningful feedback and recommendations to DJJ as well as to other juvenile justice systems interested in implementing similar improvement efforts. There are three objectives: (1) conduct a process evaluation of the implementation of CSM; (2) explore the extent to which implementation of CSM is associated with changes in youth outcomes (recidivism, risk scores, and protective factors); and (3) translate and disseminate findings to targeted audiences. A key focus will be examining whether implementation varies by regions’ urbanicity and practitioner and youth characteristics. The researchers will conduct a mixed-methods study drawing on multiple data sources, including: (1) existing DJJ administrative data, (2) semi-structured interviews with judges, (3) focus groups with probation officers and regional service providers, and (4) semi-structured interviews with justice-involved youth. The research design includes use of a variety of quantitative (e.g., descriptive statistics, latent class analysis, survival analysis, and regression) and qualitative analytic strategies.

The evaluation of the CSM will be conducted through a utilization-focused evaluation approach, placing priority on the development of concrete findings and recommendations. The researchers will pursue multiple dissemination strategies throughout the project period to ensure that the products reach a wide array of stakeholders, including technical research reports, practitioner-friendly reports, a non-technical executive summary, and conference presentations.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements- 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 6, 2017