In 2007, Vera was awarded a grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to participate in the Models for Change initiative, an effort to create successful and replicable models of juvenile justice reform through targeted investments in key states. The initiative seeks to accelerate progress toward a fairer, more effective, and more developmentally sound juvenile justice system that holds young people accountable for their actions, provides for their rehabilitation, protects them from harm, increases their life chances, and manages the risk they pose to themselves and to the public.

Center on Youth Justice’s Contributions

Vera is a member of the National Resource Bank, the association of national organizations providing technical assistance to states through this initiative. Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) staff are currently working with several jurisdictions to improve outcomes for youth and families in crisis.

  • Louisiana: CYJ staff are collaborating with lead officials in Louisiana to develop a best-practices approach to working with status offenders. CYJ is also helping to develop evidence-based practices in the state’s 16th Judicial District and conducting an outcome evaluation of the district’s Prosecutor’s Intervention Program, which aims to prevent system involvement by providing early intervention services for youth with aggressive and antisocial behaviors.
  • Washington: CYJ staff are working in Clark County, Washington, to assist system reform efforts related to alternatives to formal processing and secure confinement. CYJ is conducting a process evaluation of the Clark County Truancy Project, a countywide system providing prevention and early intervention services for truants, and will later conduct an outcome evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the program. CYJ is also working with Benton and Franklin counties’ truancy work group to examine current truancy procedures in the region. Staff conducted a descriptive population analysis, portions of which were presented at a meeting of local principals. In February 2009, CYJ staff and Benton and Franklin stakeholders visited Southwest Key Programs, a community-based nonprofit that provides education and youth development services to at-risk youth in Austin, Texas, to observe model programs and engage in an intensive planning effort with workgroup participants.

In December 2008, CYJ released Making Court the Last Resort: A New Focus for Supporting Families in Crisis, which highlights successful status offender system reforms in New York, Florida, and Connecticut.

Why We Need This Work

Models for Change is one of the most important philanthropic commitments to national juvenile justice reform. This commitment was born out of an understanding that juvenile justice systems nationwide are disjointed, counterintuitive, and more harmful than they are effective. By promoting collaboration among progressive localities and well-established research and policy organizations, Models for Change is advancing the goal of making juvenile justice systems across the country more rational and just. The initiative is currently underway in Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Through action networks focusing on key issues, the initiative is also underway in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.

For more information, contact center coordinator Insiyah Mohammad.

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