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     Initiative To Develop and Test Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines


In response to both the prevalence of youth with substance use disorders in the juvenile justice system and the inconclusive research findings regarding the effectiveness of juvenile drug courts, OJJDP launched a two-phase initiative to develop and test research-informed guidelines for juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs)1 that promote effective practice and high-quality service delivery for justice-involved youth with substance use disorders.

Goals and Objectives:

In 2014, OJJDP awarded American Institutes for Research (AIR) a cooperative agreement to develop guidelines based on current research in adolescent development, substance use treatment, youth interventions, family engagement, juvenile courts, and juvenile drug courts. AIR partnered with the Court Centered Change Network, George Mason University, Vanderbilt University, and WestEd to design an approach to develop the research base for the guidelines and draft and test the guidelines. OJJDP and AIR engaged federal staff, researchers, judges, practitioners, families, and youth to inform the development of the research protocol and the guidelines.

OJJDP anticipates the new guidelines will help court staff improve the lives of the youth they serve and help them avoid further contact with the juvenile justice system. The new guidelines will assist JDTC staff in designing practices that help youth increase their sense of belonging and self-worth; improve their mental and physical health; and thrive at home, in school, and at work.


In December 2016, OJJDP released the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines to fill the need for an evidence-based, treatment-oriented approach that emphasizes family engagement and addresses the substance use and often co-occurring mental health disorders that youth experience.

Upon release of the guidelines, AIR began the testing phase with data collection expected to begin in 2018. This phase consists of two related studies. One is a random assignment rigorous outcome evaluation comparing JDTCs aligned with the guidelines with traditional juvenile court processing outcomes. The second is an implementation assessment examining the clarity of the guidelines and the prevalence of and processes involved in implementing them. OJJDP expects that the results of these studies will guide updates and improvements to the guidelines at the conclusion of the project.

Publications and Products:

The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines and the supporting research reports and complete protocol, including the research synthesis and the list of partners, are available online at:

Contact Information:

Jennifer Tyson, Research Coordinator | 202-305-1598

G. Roger Jarjoura, Ph.D., Principal Researcher | 317- 632-7819
American Institutes for Research

1 A juvenile drug treatment court is a calendar or docket that provides specialized treatment and services for youth with substance use or co-occurring mental health disorders who have come in contact with the juvenile court. OJJDP uses the term "juvenile drug court" when referring to the historical, broad implementation of this type of approach, prior to the establishment of the JDTC Guidelines. OJJDP recognizes that many courts emphasized the treatment approach well before the establishment of the guidelines. OJJDP uses the term "juvenile drug treatment court" when specifically discussing courts aligned with the JDTC Guidelines.

Project Snapshot

Project Title: Initiative To Develop and Test Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines

Most recent solicitation: OJJDP FY 2014 Initiative To Develop and Test Guidelines for Juvenile Drug Courts

Grantee: American Institutes for Research

Current award start date: October 1, 2014

Anticipated end date: September 30, 2019

Award status: Active

Type of research: Translational Research and Evaluation

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