Despite Murky Results, Juvenile Drug Courts Get a Big Federal Boost

With $4 million from the federal government, 10 jurisdictions across the country will each be getting $400,000 to work on enhancing juvenile drug court programs.

That is hardly surprising. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has regularly supported such courts. It has also given more than $10 million to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges to help develop best practices and provide training and technical assistance.Eye_home_2

But unless the juvenile drug court model starts to produce more demonstrable results, the funding isn’t likely to continue much longer.

Imagine a world in which, instead of punishing young people for getting involved in substance abuse, we helped young people find healthier ways to shift their mood state and cope with insecurity, depression, anger, and sadness — the hallmark negative emotions of adolescence that often lead to substance abuse.

Juvenile drug courts are the brainchild of people who had such ideas. The original notion was to give young people who are involved with the juvenile justice system due to their alcohol or drug use a chance at specialized treatment to address the habit.

Despite those good intentions, and millions of dollars in government and philanthropic investments, juvenile drug courts have not proven themselves in the court of research.

A 2010 update from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) on the research suggests that “the field is just beginning to identify the factors that distinguish effective from ineffective programs.”

What do we know so far about effectiveness in juvenile drug courts? The update from NADCP found that programs that had “lackluster results” did not offer evidence-based treatments, did not involve family members and other caregivers in interventions, and did not tailor the intervention to the client’s developmental level.

The largest foundation commitment to juvenile drug courts came last decade from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which put millions into the strategy through its Reclaiming Futures initiative. OJJDP even matched the foundation, putting $3.9 milllion in federal grants into three Reclaiming Futures sites.

But the yield from RWJF’s investment was far from clear. An evaluation of four Reclaiming Futures sites, done by the Urban Institute in 2009, found that, while sites had improved their ability to address substance abuse by juvenile offenders, lower rates of recidivism were discernible only in one of the four sites.

A recent conference hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation featured a panel discussion about juvenile drug courts and other specialty courts. One of the researchers on the Reclaiming Futures evaluation team, Jeffrey Butts, served as a panelist and was critical of their track record in juvenile justice.

One of the largest foundation grants to go to Juvenile Drug Court in the past decade was W.K. Kellogg’s grant to Michigan’s 56th Judicial Circuit Court of Charlotte, Michigan. This grant, for a whopping $1.39 million, was given for the purpose of introducing  “innovative partnerships and approaches to better address youth and family development for those engaged with the Eaton County Family Division Drug Court.” The timeframe on this grant extended from March of 2005 to April of 2012.  

Kellogg also provided $75,000 to Kalamazoo’s juvenile drug court in 2010, for the purpose of particularly addressing the needs of abused and neglected youth. Of interest to funders and nonprofits in this area: Kalamazoo has set up a “Drug Treatment Court Fund.” This fund is administered by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, providing a public-private partnership to raise money for this community drug court, which reports that “85 percent of all Drug Treatment Court graduates are successful and do not re-enter the court system.”

Since 2000, several other Community Foundations have also provided grant dollars for juvenile drug courts in Oregon, Virginia, Alabama, and California.

Children and Youth Funding Round-Up

Jack and Jill Foundation of America Awards $400,000 in Grants:  The vision of the Jack and Jill Foundation of America is to “transform African-American communities, one child at a time.” Grantees in this year’s winner’s pool include Youth Mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Leadership Programs with the Boys and Girls Club, educational STEM programs, Appalachian Trail Expeditions, and Emerging Scientist projects.

United Health and Whole Kids Foundation Step Up Nutrition Grantmaking: Nutrition is on the front burner of these two foundations, and they are coming together to make $150,000 in grants nationally to organizations that are working to help kids get a basic education on how to eat healthy. This money is part of United Health’s recent $500,000 donation to the Whole Kids Foundation, which does grantmaking for schools to create community gardens and school salad bars. More information about the new nutrition grant application process is available here.

Youth INC Raises $1.6 Million with October 17th Race: With over 1,900 participants, the RBC Race for the Kids was a huge success in New York City. The event included a 3K race, multi-event team challenges and shorter races for children. Youth INC was a partner in this event with Royal Bank of Canada, which has a strong presence in New York and other major U.S. cities. Youth INC helps nonprofits serving kids to develop stronger boards and fundraising capabilities. It reports that  “participating nonprofits experience an average increase of more than 160 percent in revenue, 45 percent increase in Board size and, most importantly, 120 percent increase in the number of youth served.”

Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation Hosts Week of Giving with Focus on Literacy for Kids: The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation hosted its week of giving from October 10-17th, with projects taking place in over 87 cities across the U.S, covering a range of service areas including homeless programs, youth, and education — with a particular focus on early literacy.  Check out IICF’s Facebook page to see pictures of some of the initiatives for kids that took place recently, and look for funding opportunities with the IICF in your community by learning more about its partners and supporters, and by connecting with a board member of the IICF.

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About Kiersten Marek 22 Articles
Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island, and a Senior Editor for Los Angeles-based Inside Philanthropy, where she writes about economic and social philanthropy. Kiersten is also the author of Know Thyself: A Kid's Guide to the Archetypes, an identity development workbook.