Since the release of the OJJDP-funded national evaluation of Reclaiming Futures, we have made a significant effort to study the findings in order to understand which elements of our approach may be producing better outcomes for young people and which elements need improvement. One thing that stands out when you look at the Reclaiming Futures evaluation report is that both the Reclaiming Futures cohort of sites and the comparison cohort – which was a very well-funded group of Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts – were very similar in that both consistently used evidence-based treatment practices.
When Reclaiming Futures launched more than 15 years ago, it was considered innovative and forward-thinking that one of our key principles of practice was to support and cajole the local jurisdictions to adopt and sustain evidence-based treatment approaches. Now juvenile justice and other youth-serving systems widely accept the importance of evidence-based treatment approaches as a standard of practice in the field. In spite of the consensus around using evidence-based practices, the expansion of treatment-focused diversion programs, and alternatives to incarceration, significant racial and ethnic disparities in youth outcomes continue to plague our system.
In this month’s Reclaiming Futures newsletter we reflect on the critical question of whether the evidence-based practices that we have adopted as a point of faith, in fact have the same level of effectiveness for all the youth we serve in the juvenile justice system, particularly youth of color. An important finding in the Reclaiming Futures national evaluation suggests that youth outcomes are significantly improved in settings where evidence-based practices are delivered in a manner sensitive to culture and gender. It is critically important then that we address the question of whether evidence-based treatment practices, including the research validated screening and assessment tools we have come to rely on in juvenile justice settings, are adequately responsive to the needs of youth of color.
For insights into this important discussion we draw your attention to a recent blog post by Reclaiming Futures’ own Bridget Murphy and to an important new report by the W. Haywood Burns Institute looking at the effectiveness of evidence-based practices with youth of color.