News Release – October 4, 2007

Urban Institute/Chapin Hall Evaluation Says Reclaiming Futures Model Produces Positive and Significant Changes

Portland, OR (Oct. 4, 2007) — An independent evaluation by the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago has found communities that piloted the Reclaiming Futures model reported significant improvements in juvenile justice and drug and alcohol treatment.

Reclaiming Futures is an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that helps teens in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime. The Reclaiming Futures model combines system reforms, treatment improvement and community engagement.

The evaluation measured the quality of substance abuse treatment systems serving youth in the juvenile justice system as reported by survey respondents in 10 communities during the first phase of Reclaiming Futures from 2002 through 2007. The results have just been released in Changing Systems: Outcomes from the RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative on Juvenile Justice and Substance Abuse, a report that can be downloaded at,, and

“All 10 Reclaiming Futures communities reported positive and significant changes,” said co-author Jeffrey A. Butts, research fellow at Chapin Hall and member of the Reclaiming Futures evaluation team. “And our findings overall suggest that Reclaiming Futures is a potentially effective method for improving a community’s response to delinquency and substance abuse.”

The juvenile justice response to drug and alcohol problems is often inadequate, even though research shows that young people who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to have trouble with the law, to do poorly in school, and even to drop out of school. The Reclaiming Futures approach works to integrate the efforts of juvenile justice systems, substance abuse treatment providers and communities to improve interventions for teens with drug and alcohol problems.

Evaluators conducted biannual surveys in each of the 10 demonstration communities from December 2003 to June 2006. Across all 10 pilot sites, survey respondents reported significant improvements in 12 of 13 areas, including treatment effectiveness, alcohol and drug assessments, and pro-social activities for youth. . Survey respondents included local policymakers, judges, juvenile justice staff, drug treatment staff, and community volunteers.

“This report confirms what we’ve been seeing on the ground during the last five years,” says Elaine Cassidy, senior program officer in research and evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Juvenile justice and drug and alcohol treatment services got better thanks to Reclaiming Futures.”

“Teens need to be held accountable when they break the law,” says Laura Nissen, national program director of Reclaiming Futures. “But to help young people escape the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime, we also need to provide drug and alcohol treatment. The Reclaiming Futures model gives teens and their families the support they need to turn their lives around. We’re excited to have the opportunity to spread this approach across the country.”

RWJF announced earlier this year a new $6 million grant to support the 10 pilot sites for two more years and to help other communities implement the Reclaiming Futures model over the next four years. Meantime, the U. S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently announced a new partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and RWJF to award grants to incorporate the Reclaiming Futures approach at three more sites over the next four years.

Reclaiming Futures is an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that offers a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. Its 10 communities include: Anchorage, Alaska.; Santa Cruz, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; four counties in Southeastern Kentucky; Marquette, Mich.; the state of New Hampshire; the Sovereign Tribal Nation of Sicangu Lakota in Rosebud, South Dakota; Dayton, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash. The national office of Reclaiming Futures is housed in the Graduate School of Social Work at the Regional Research Institute at Portland State University. To learn more, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. For more information, visit

Chapin Hall Center for Children is an independent policy research center located at the University of Chicago. Its multidisciplinary research agenda encompasses the needs of all children, with special attention devoted to populations that experience significant problems—such as maltreatment, poverty, delinquency, and mental and physical illness—and to the service systems and community resources designed to address those challenges. For more information, visit

The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and educational organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation. For more information visit