November | December 2017

Research Central: Using Implementation Science

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Implementation science—the systematic study of how programs and practices are started and sustained in everyday settings—is a growing field in juvenile justice. This type of scientific inquiry helps bridge the gap between identifying evidence-based programs and putting what has been learned from those programs into practice in the real world.


To help policymakers and practitioners implement effective programs and practices, OJJDP developed the Model Programs Guide (MPG). MPG informs communities about what works, what doesn’t, and what’s promising in juvenile justice, delinquency prevention, and child protection and safety.


OJJDP's recently launched Implementation Guides (I-Guides) expand the valuable program information on the MPG website. To develop an I-Guide, OJJDP works with researchers to systematically review and synthesize the factors that appear to affect the implementation of a particular type of program. Each I-Guide highlights 10 specific steps—based on implementation science research literature—that users should undertake during the preimplemenation phase of a program or practice. MPG's most recent implementation guide, the Diversion Programs I-Guide, highlights the research-based information associated with successful juvenile justice diversion programs.


“Preadjudication diversion” is a term used to describe intervention approaches that direct youth away from formal processing before they go to court. Even though approaches vary based on the needs of the community and strategies used, diversion programs generally seek to maintain accountability for offenses while avoiding the costs and detrimental consequences of system involvement, such as stigmatization or increased risk of future offending.

The Diversion Programs I-Guide analyzes the 10 common steps successful communities undertook prior to implementing diversion programs. Those steps include setting clear program goals, conducting needs assessments to further refine those goals and plans, and securing stakeholder buy-in. The I-Guide also offers action-oriented recommendations to guide users as they establish the right evidence-based program for their unique, local needs.

The Diversion Programs I-Guide is available online via OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide.


A literature review on diversion from formal juvenile court processing can also be accessed on the Model Programs Guide website.


The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act that established OJJDP authorizes the Administrator to conduct research and evaluations and undertake statistical analyses on issues related to juvenile offending and victimization. Because OJJDP is the only Office of Justice Programs agency with dual mandates for research and programs, we are uniquely positioned to integrate research in our programmatic functions, and are committed to translating research into practice.


Look to this recurring column authored by members of OJJDP’s Research Unit to distill topically relevant and timely OJJDP-supported research.