Recent Juvenile Aftercare Initiatives
Juvenile Aftercare in a Maryland Drug Treatment Program

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice received a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) to develop an aftercare program that would complement short-term residential treatment for chemically addicted or drug-abusing juvenile offenders. Sealock, Gottfredson, and Gallagher (1997, 1995) evaluated this program, which included only youth who resided in Baltimore City. Drug-abusing youth from a number of other Maryland counties were also committed to residential treatment facilities by judges, but no aftercare was provided. The residential treatment was to include Alcoholics Anonymous group sessions and offer academic courses, recreational opportunities, vocational education, work assignments, and social activities. Aftercare for Baltimore City juvenile offenders was to consist of three phases. During prerelease, the services of a family therapist were to include assessment, development of a treatment plan, and family work. During the intensive phase (the first 2 months in the community), staff were to have daily contact with the participants and hold youth support group meetings and family support sessions. Additionally, an addiction counselor was to provide individual counseling and in-home family therapy. The final transitional aftercare phase was to include at least two meetings per week with the case manager, two meetings per month with the addiction counselor, and the continuation of family support groups. On an as-needed basis, other community-based services and family therapy were to be provided.

The evaluation examined both the residential and aftercare experience. Youth in aftercare treatment, all of whom were from Baltimore City, varied substantially in several characteristics from those who received residential treatment and no aftercare, all of whom were from outside Baltimore. The group from Baltimore City had a higher percentage of nonwhites, exhibited a greater number of prior offenses, were younger at first referral to the justice system, and had offense histories that reflected greater involvement with drugs and more property offenses than comparison youth. The residential treatment services provided were found to be highly uneven in scope and quality. Although assessments for drug problems and drug education took place, much less happened in relation to encouraging family participation, providing family therapy, conducting psychological assessments, and holding individual counseling sessions. In fact, the evaluators found that most of the residential program's intermediate goals (e.g., increasing coping skills, internal control, family communication) were not realized. Further, it was noted that a 2-month residential treatment program might not have been sufficient for a youthful, drug-involved population (Sealock, Gottfredson, and Gallagher, 1997). Finally, although some positive effects were observed during residential treatment, the evaluators found that this component required additional strengthening (Sealock, Gottfredson, and Gallagher, 1995).

Curiously, the evaluators also found that youth who received aftercare treatment spent less time in the residential drug treatment program (by 12 days) than youth in the comparison group, who also experienced some additional residential placements (Sealock, Gottfredson, and Gallagher, 1997). According to the researchers, this finding suggests that the aftercare services actually may have replaced more expensive, and possibly more effective, residential treatment services. The problem related to family participation is again noted in relation to aftercare, but at this point, of course, the youth were back in the home directly interacting with family. Additionally, although the average number of weeks spent in the intensive phase of aftercare was 33, not the 8 weeks planned, the average juvenile had only 29 contacts with staff, less than one per week, nowhere close to the daily contact envisioned by the model. Finally, attrition became a significant problem. Of the 162 juveniles who began the aftercare prerelease phase, only 54 entered the transitional phase, and of those, only 36 entirely completed the aftercare phases. In short, few of the aftercare clients received much aftercare, and for those who did, the quality and nature of the services provided were highly suspect.

The evaluation found that aftercare services of the quality and intensity delivered in the Maryland program were not beneficial (Sealock, Gottfredson, and Gallagher, 1997). Specifically, aftercare clients had no fewer alleged or adjudicated offenses overall than youth in the comparison group, meaning that there was no difference in the level of reoffending in general. Aftercare clients were, however, adjudicated delinquent for more drug offenses than those in the comparison group, and there was no evidence indicating a program effect related to increasing family supervision or communication, reducing family violence, decreasing health problems, or increasing problem-solving skills. On the positive side, aftercare clients committed significantly fewer new crimes against persons than their counterparts in the comparison group.

Reintegration, Supervised Release, and Intensive Aftercare Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  July 1999