Q: Our team has been struggling with the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) Guideline 7.2 --
A youth should be terminated from the program only after the JDTC team has carefully deliberated and only as a last resort after full implementation of the JDTC's protocol on behavioral contingencies.
We have a policy about termination but it is vague and we are just not sure if we are terminating too quickly. What should we be doing?
A: Many JDTCs struggle with termination criteria, and in practice - even when there is a policy - it can sometimes feel like decisions are still made on a case-by-case basis. But, termination is also one of the program events that you will have data on. You can use data from past terminations to help you figure out why youth have been terminated from the program. As a team, use the following activity to guide your discussion.
- Gather as much information as you can about the termination of 10-20 youth from your program. Include records from your MIS system, case files, etc.
- Set aside an afternoon to get together as a team to look at past data. Try to find a time for the entire team to attend. Depending on your court structure, you may even consider inviting past team members if you will be looking at terminations that occurred before the current make-up of the team.
- Use the information from the case files and MIS records to get a picture of the youth who have been terminated. To help your discussion, post flip chart sheets on the wall in your meeting room. Use a flip chart sheet for each information item/data item you are looking at across the youth cases to help you create your picture of terminated youth. The data items should be things like "Length of Time in the Program," "Type of Offense on Entry," "Level of Treatment Needed," "Reason for Termination," "Race," "Gender," and "Ethnicity." Below is an example of the information you might put on a flip chart sheet concerning "Length of Time in the Program." The example lists only four youth; hopefully you will have more (ideally 10-20).
Youth 1 - 37 days
Youth 2 - 22 months
Youth 3 - 21 months
Youth 4 - 22 months
- Once you have charted everything, look for patterns in the data. In the example provided, there are several youth who are being terminated around 21 or 22 months.
- After you have identified a pattern, take a closer look at the files of the actual cases and discuss what led to the termination. If a lot of youth are being terminated at about the same point in the program, is something happening with the program requirements that is leading to the termination?
- As part of this investigation, your team should talk about whether or not these terminations meet the standard set in the Guideline – had you fully implemented your behavioral contingency – why or why not?
- Finally, as a group, develop your termination criteria (checklist). Some items to include to confirm that the team has exhausted all resources and strategies could be:
- The variety of contingency management strategies used (e.g., behavior contracts; incentives that youth/family identified as motivating)
- The case plan and treatment plans made and revised to identify appropriate services to fit a youth's risks, needs, and interests
- The services and supports offered to fit youth's risks, needs, and interests (including services appropriate for a youth's culture, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation)
- The educational supports offered to address educational needs and barriers (e.g., IEP, considerations for learning disability, mobility disability)
- The support offered to meet transportation needs
Have the criteria and specific reasons for termination be objective and measurable.
Even though it might take a little time, your team will find that doing basic analysis of previous terminations can help ensure that team decisions are based on objective and measurable factors. This in turn enhances the fairness of the team's decision-making process. It also can help promote quality assurance that the team and program are in fact offering the services, incentives, supports, and supervision that youth need to succeed..
- Are the Phases/Levels in Your Program Meeting the Expected Metrics? Read more about the El Paso County Juvenile Drug Court Program's process that encourages team members to collaborate and take steps to identify roadblocks.
- Does your team need training and technical assistance (TTA) to put the JDTC Guidelines into practice? Request TTA here.
- Want access to more resources? Click here for team training webinars, resources and tools, and publications relevant to monitoring and tracking program completion and termination, and tools that you can share with your team!
ACHIEVING CONFIDENCE WITH DATA COLLECTION: HOW TO MONITOR AND MANAGE YOUR JUVENILE DRUG TREATMENT COURT'S PROGRESS
Objective 7 has three guidelines for monitoring and tracking your Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) program: 1) facilitate equivalent outcomes for all program participants, 2) terminate participants as a last resort, and 3) routinely collect detailed data. How can your JDTC accomplish all three?
It begins with data collection. The effectiveness of your program can only be determined with data. Hurdles with data collection and analyses can include how to collect data, who collects and analyzes the data, and what data should be collected.
How you collect data can be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet, or as sophisticated as using IBM’s SPSS Statistics program. Click here for tools to help you get started. Who collects and analyzes the data can be a JDTC team member, an evaluator, or a local university intern. However, all team members should have some basic knowledge about what data are being collected. Local universities are an excellent resource for data collection and analyses. The Creating Judicial – Academic Partnerships Technical Assistance Brief is a resource that can help you partner with a local university.
What data should be collected is most likely the greatest piece of the puzzle. The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines (Guidelines) recommend the types of data to collect. Collecting data on the number of participants who graduate and are terminated in each year and on recidivism is important, but JDTCs should look at other factors as well. When participants enter the program, your JDTC should collect demographic information about youth, their scores on screening and risk assessments, charge(s) and previous involvement in the juvenile justice system, drug use history, etc. JDTCs should also track incentives and sanctions given in each phase, the number of drug screens (positive and negative), the average number of days youth are in the JDTC and in each phase, youth retention, and youth treatment progress. JDTCs can also collect youth self-report data regarding home functioning and family cohesion. Positive outcome data can include family-related factors, employment, involvement in prosocial activities, and education-related factors.
The Guidelines state, “Because consistent evidence exists that successful program completion depends on the court’s structure and participant’s commitment to the process, JDTCs are encouraged to work with each participant individually to find a structure that maximizes the use of incentives, uses graduated sanctions appropriately and consistently, and supports family engagement in meaningful and empowering ways.” This can be accomplished with data collection.
Identify your JDTC’s current practices on data collection and analyses. Select a uniform method for collecting data. Decide who is going to collect and analyze the data. Determine what data are already being collected and what additional data can be collected. Finally, decide how often the data analyses will be reviewed.
Use the data analyses to guide program decisions. Look at outcomes for all program participants across gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Are outcomes equivalent? Let your data tell you. Are you terminating participants as a last resort? Let your data tell you. Are you incentivizing youth for positive behavior? Let your data tell you. Examine assessments of your JDTC for correlations between practices and outcome measures. In doing so, you can guide your court to achieve best practices for serving youth.
Click below to link to additional resources:
The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines (Guidelines) are based on current research. The Guidelines provide juvenile courts with an evidence-based, treatment-oriented approach that emphasizes family engagement. Also addressed are the co-occurring mental health disorders that many youth with substance use disorders experience. The Guidelines are organized into key objectives with corresponding guideline statements. References to the rigorous supporting research as well as considerations for implementation are provided.
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