News Release – December 12, 2007

Evaluation by Urban Institute/Chapin Hall Indicates Reclaiming Futures Strengthens Social Networks that Help Troubled Teens

Portland, OR (Dec. 12, 2007) – An independent evaluation by the Urban Institute and Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago has found eight communities that piloted the Reclaiming Futures model have improved the social networks juvenile justice and substance abuse agencies use to communicate and cooperate with one another.

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

To evaluate the initiative’s impact on agency relationships, a national evaluation team conducted a social network analysis in eight of the 10 Reclaiming Futures communities.

“Social network analysis enabled the national evaluation to assess how the pattern of organizational relationships evolved,” said the Urban Institute’s Jennifer Yahner, the report’s coauthor. “Communities that used the Reclaiming Futures model increased the strength of their social networks. The improved communications enhanced the partnership’s ability to address the needs of substance-involved juveniles.”

The survey asked more than 60 questions to respondents about the juvenile justice system in their community, about each of the other respondents in their area, including how often they interacted with the person and whether the interaction was helpful to them in doing their job or in performing their duties as a volunteer or youth advocate. Surveys were conducted six times between December 2003 and June 2006. Respondents included judges, probation officers, educators, substance abuse and mental health treatment professionals, community activists and organizers, members of faith-based organizations, and youth advocates.

“One of the goals of Reclaiming Futures was to change the way agencies interact as they cooperate to serve youth and families. This study shows it is possible to affect the structure of these inter-organizational networks in ways that help agencies work better together to get things done,” said Jeffrey Butts, Chapin Hall Center for Children and co-author of the report.”

The results of the evaluation have just been released in Agency Relations: Social Network Dynamics and the RWJF Reclaiming Futures Initiative, a report that can be downloaded at www.reclaimingfutures.org, www.chapinhall.org, and www.urban.org.

According to the report, Reclaiming Futures played a central role in the agency networks of the eight pilot communities. Researchers also found a strong presence of non-justice agencies such as treatment providers and community partners in virtually every network.

“To help teens in trouble with drugs, alcohol and crime, we must offer them well-managed, coordinated services involving many different agencies,” says Laura Nissen, national program director of Reclaiming Futures. “This report shows that the Reclaiming Futures model can help strengthen social networks among community partners both inside and outside the juvenile justice system.”

Earlier this year, RWJF granted $6 million 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 partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’ Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and RWJF to award grants to the three communities of Greene County, Missouri; New York State Unified Court System, New York; and Hocking County, Ohio to incorporate the Reclaiming Futures approach.

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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 www.reclaimingfutures.org.

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 www.rwjf.org.

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 www.chapinhall.org or contact Carolyn Saper at csaper@chapinhall.org or 773.256.5212.

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 www.urban.org.