Helping Substance-Involved Young People in Juvenile Justice Be Successful

Alcohol and drug abuse among youth increases their risk of serious involvement in the juvenile justice system, as well as serious emotional and mental health problems. To address the need for youth-focused interventions, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in 2000 created Reclaiming Futures: Communities Helping Teens Overcome Drugs, Alcohol and Crime. The national program sought a new standard of care, a framework that incorporated systems and community change so that young people transitioned permanently from the juvenile justice and treatment systems.

To accomplish this, RWJF engaged key leaders, formal and informal, from multiple segments, including judges, treatment system leaders, community leaders, faith leaders and families.

The Reclaiming Futures model encompasses six elements:

  1. Initial screening for adolescent substance abuse.
  2. Initial assessment of problems and co-occurring issues.
  3. Service coordination for youth in the juvenile justice system.
  4. Initiation of treatment.
  5. Engagement of youth in the treatment process.
  6. Completion of treatment and a positive development trajectory for youth.

Over the past 10 years, the 29 Reclaiming Futures sites have tested and evolved this model to work with communities to reclaim young people who find themselves in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime.

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