Keeping Youth Out of the Deep End of the Juvenile Justice System

Keeping Youth Out of the Deep End of the Juvenile Justice System

A Developmental Evaluation of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Deep-End Reform
Published: Sep 21, 2020
Publisher: The Urban Institute and Mathematica
Associated Project

Improving Reforms for Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System

Time frame: 2014 – 2020

Prepared for:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Janine Zweig

Sino Esthappan

Johanna Lacoe

Leah Sakala

Douglas Young

Key Findings
  • The communities that engaged in deep-end reform conducted multiple activities to reduce out-of-home placements and improve racial and ethnic equity and inclusion in their juvenile justice practices.
  • Although sites shared no single characteristic that appeared linked to the success of deep-end activities, five particular characteristics were common and were therefore considered assets to implementing reform: (1) deep-end reform leaders with positional power, (2) deep-end reform leaders committed to reform, (3) strong community partnerships, (4) stakeholder and site staff buy-in, and (5) substantial data capacity.
  • As with many complex initiatives, deep-end reform involves challenges. Culture change, particularly toward addressing racial disparities and increasing inclusion, can be difficult to achieve at all levels of the juvenile justice system. Partnerships, particularly with community organizations and youth and families, can require significant time, energy, and dollars to be successful. Multiple sites struggled with collecting and analyzing the data needed for reforms. Though stakeholders often overcame these challenges, doing so was not easy, even with a committed team and Foundation assistance.

Funded and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (the Foundation), several communities across the US have undertaken deep-end reform designed to safely and significantly reduce juvenile out-of-home placement, especially for youth of color. To achieve these goals, deep-end reform activities include improved probation practices, better decisionmaking throughout the juvenile justice system, expanded diversion and service options, and increased youth and family engagement. The communities that pursued deep-end reform received grants and tailored, site-specific technical assistance from the Foundation. From 2013 through 2018, the Foundation funded a developmental evaluation of its deep-end reform to better understand what worked well, what could be improved, and lessons for the field. This report provides an overview of the Foundation’s deep-end reform and the findings from the evaluation. It offers a high-level view of the Foundation’s activities related to the reform, the activities sites developed and implemented, and the successes and challenges that the Foundation and sites encountered.

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