Reclaiming Futures: Communities Helping Teens Overcome Drugs, Alcohol and Crime

In 1999, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Board of Trustees authorized a national program, Reclaiming Futures: Communities Helping Teens Overcome Drugs, Alcohol & Crime. The program focuses on assisting juvenile justice systems to work with alcohol and drug treatment providers and community members to help teens not only in trouble with the law but also with drug and alcohol problems.

Through further authorizations, RWJF has continued to support the program into 2013. Since 2008 program staff has been working on refining and spreading the Reclaiming Futures model. This report does not cover the spread and refinement of the model; it will be updated when the program closes.

Before this program began, juvenile justice systems and substance abuse treatment systems seldom worked together on a consistent basis to serve the needs of these adolescents.

Under the first phase of the program, in each of 10 communities, multidisciplinary teams worked to enhance the availability and quality of substance abuse interventions for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. Organizations in the 10 Reclaiming Futures sites started the process of collaborating with each other in ways they had not before and promoted judicial leadership, court/community collaborations, multi-agency partnerships, opportunities for youth to engage in positive, productive behaviors and improved substance abuse treatment quality.

Project leadership at participating sites, national program staff and program evaluators developed a six-part model for identifying, assessing and treating youth with substance abuse problems in the juvenile justice system. The Reclaiming Futures national program office published a report How to Implement a Model to Get Youth Off Drugs and Out of Crime that outlined this model.

Evaluators from the Urban Institute in Washington and the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall Center for Children documented evaluation findings on system changes in a 2007 report, Changing Systems: Outcomes from the RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative on Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse. In the report, lead evaluators Jeffrey A. Butts, PhD, from Chapin Hall Center for Children, and John Roman, MPP, from the Urban Institute wrote:

The pattern of [survey] responses over six survey administrations (December 2003 to June 2006) suggests that [Reclaiming Futures] is a promising strategy for improving substance abuse interventions for youth. Positive and significant changes were reported in all ten [Reclaiming Futures] communities. In several communities, most quality indicators measured by the evaluation improved significantly during the course of the [Reclaiming Futures] initiative.