News Release – December 20, 2011

Children and Youth Services Review Focuses on Reclaiming Futures

Special Edition Describes National Model, Successes and Lessons Learned

PORTLAND, OREGON The Children and Youth Services Review released its online issue featuring Reclaiming Futures, a national organization that improves drug and alcohol treatment for teens in juvenile courts. The issue includes 12 articles by 19 experts and is available here.

“Reclaiming Futures is a tested and proven approach that has set a new national standard of care and is making a difference in the lives of teens and families in communities across the country,” said Laura Burney Nissen, Ph.D., founder of Reclaiming Futures and associate professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work. “This issue of Children and Youth Services Review documents the ideas, principles and practices of the Reclaiming Futures model.”

Edited by Dr. Nissen of the School of Social Work at Portland State University, Dan Merrigan, Ph.D., associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, and Kristin Schubert, MPH, program officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the issue delves deep into the Reclaiming Futures model, how it works, why it’s successful and lessons learned over the past decade.

“This edition of Children and Youth Services Review gets to the heart of the national Reclaiming Futures model,” said Dr. Merrigan. “We take an honest look at the juvenile justice field and share proven strategies for practitioners and community leaders to help teens caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.”

The issue covers the following areas:

  • Analysis of the Reclaiming Futures model;
  • Challenges and opportunities to evaluate complex system reform initiatives;
  • The role of community engagement;
  • How to use communication to drive community and systems change;
  • Lessons learned during implementation of Reclaiming Futures model;
  • Anti-oppressive practice within the Reclaiming Futures model;
  • The juvenile justice system and youth of color;
  • The power of family involvement;
  • The importance of implementing best practices in juvenile reentry; and
  • Policy issues associated with adolescent substance abuse.

Founded in 2001 with an initial 10 pilot sites, Reclaiming Futures has spread to 29 communities in 17 states and tribal areas. The program screens and assesses each youth that enters the juvenile justice system for drug and alcohol problems, develops a treatment plan coordinated by a service team and connects teens with employers, mentors and volunteer service projects. It is strongly guided by judges in each of the judicial districts involved.

About Reclaiming Futures: Reclaiming Futures was established by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to offer a new approach to helping teenagers caught in the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime. It now operates in 29 communities in 17 states. Its funding partners include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and The Duke Endowment. The national office of Reclaiming Futures is housed in the Regional Research Institute of the School of Social Work at Portland State University. To learn more, visit