Evaluating Systems Change in a Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative

Reclaiming Futures, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a system change strategy to reduce drug use problems among youth involved in the juvenile justice system through collaborative partnerships at the agency, network and community levels. In its first phase (2002–2007) 10 communities received funding.

These evaluators conducted two analyses using data from stakeholder surveys administered to 20 to 50 stakeholders at each site. Stakeholders were asked about the effectiveness of the local services system to deliver coordinated services for drug-involved youthful offenders. They were also asked about their interactions with one another. Questions covered 13 indices of system performance in the areas of administration (4), collaborations (3) and quality (6).

Reclaiming Futures generated positive changes in 12 of the 13 indices. Improvements were “especially dramatic in the ratings for treatment effectiveness, the use of client information in support of treatment, the use of screening and assessment tools, and overall systems integration,” the evaluators write.

Evaluators analyzed the social network of stakeholders to determine whether Reclaiming Futures enhanced communication and collaboration among agencies responsible for interventions for drug-involved youths. Overall network strength increased in the communities over the course of the initiative.

This article is part of a special issue of Children and Youth Services Review on the RWJF-funded Reclaiming Futures program.