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Family Engagement in Juvenile Drug Court: Lessons Learned

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2015
5 pages

Based on findings of the National Cross-Site Evaluation of Juvenile Drug Courts and Reclaiming Futures (JDC/RF National Cross-Site Evaluation), which assessed the implementation and impacts of five JDC/RF pilot sites, this report outlines lessons learned for ways to improve such programs' engagement with the families of youth participants.


Evaluation research shows that when a JDC/RF program has a component of engaging families of the youth with substance-abuse disorders, youths' decreased drug use improves, along with their risk for committing personal and property crime. The JDC/RF evaluation yielded lessons for how such family engagement should be implemented in order to be effective. First, require parent/caregiver participation as a condition for participation. This can be done by having a parent/caregiver sign an agreement for participation during a youth's enrollment in the program. The program planners should also set policies regarding how and when to use coercive power in enforcing family members' compliance with the agreement. Second, court staff must ensure families' access to appropriate services. This involves an identification and resolution of barriers to such access to community services. It is particularly important to provide substance-abuse treatment at family-friendly times and locations; hold court sessions at family-friendly times; and establish channels for feedback from families and service providers on how treatment services are proceeding. Third, provide resources for family members. This could involve having trained "parent partners," offering a parent/caregiver support group; sponsoring "family nights," and linking parents/caregivers to treatment. Fourth, families should be engaged from the judicial bench during court sessions. This provides judicial support for family authority with a youth, leverages team input; and provides incentives for family compliance with the rehabilitation program.

Date Published: June 1, 2015