Comparison of Six Promising Aftercare Programs

The programs reviewed in this Bulletin provide examples of several comprehensive aftercare programs that prepare juveniles for reentry into the community. Although these programs vary in origin, design, and approach, all share certain formal characteristics. In fact, the designs of the six promising aftercare programs are strikingly similar. Table 2 provides evidence of this symmetry across several program characteristics.

Table 2: Comparison of Six Promising Aftercare Programs

Intensive Aftercare Program
Youth Center
Bethesda Day Treatment Center Florida Environmental Institute Project CRAFT GROWTH
General Program Information
Colorado/ Nevada/
Maryland Pennsylvania Florida Florida/ Maryland/ North Dakota/ Tennessee Alabama
Funding IAP grant, state funds Maryland Department of Juvenile Services Formula grant, private (nonprofit) Florida Department of Juvenile Justice CRAFT grant,
state funds
Boys & Girls Clubs of South Alabama
Gender Male Male Male/Female Male Male/Female Female
Age 12–18 13–18 10–18 15–18 16–21 13–17
Risk of recidivism High High High High High High
Average length of program Colorado: 10 months' incarceration,
8 months' aftercare
Nevada: 8 months' incarceration,
8 months' aftercare
7 months' incarceration,
6 months' aftercare
8 months' incarceration,
9 months' aftercare
6–12 months 9 months' incarceration,
9 months' aftercare
2–12 months 18 weeks' intensive treatment (residential or day treatment),
minimum of
6 months' aftercare
Program Characteristics
Facilitates transitional structure
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Uses assessment and classification Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Develops individualized case planning Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Uses rewards and sanctions Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Links to community treatment services Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Combines intensive supervision and treatment Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Types of Services and Supervision Options After Release
Treatment services
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Vocational training
  • Mental health counseling
  • Life skills training
  • Drug/alcohol treatment
  • Education
  • Vocational counseling
  • Crisis intervention
  • Mentoring
  • Family services
  • Transportation
  • Individual, group, and family counseling
  • Drug/alcohol treatment
  • Education
  • Life skills development
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Vocational skills
  • Family assistance
  • Employment
  • Drug/alcohol treatment
  • Housing services
  • Family services
  • Vocational training
  • Financial assistance
  • Female-specific life skills
  • Community service
  • Education
  • Functional Family Therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Trauma recovery
  • Substance abuse
  • Parenting teen
Supervision options
  • Staff contact (1–5/week)
  • Curfew
  • Urinalysis
  • House arrest
  • Electronic monitoring
  • Paging
  • Monthly court review
  • Day treatment (NV)
  • Furlough (NV)
  • Group home (VA)
  • Staff contact (12/month)
  • Coordination with probation staff
  • Surveillance
  • Intensive supervision program
  • Search and rescue
  • 24-hour crisis hotline
  • Treatment detention accountability
  • Staff contact (4/week)
  • Curfew
  • Required job attendance
  • Frequent calls
  • Coordination with parole and probation officers
  • Community work service
  • Traditional probation and parole
  • Staff contact (weekly empowerment meetings)

Focus on high-risk youth. Most of the aftercare programs described in this Bulletin focus on high-risk male youth ages 10–18. GROWTH targets high-risk female youth ages 13–17, and the Bethesda Day Treatment Center and Project CRAFT accept both male and female participants.

A means to facilitate transition. Although the methods for doing so differ, each program facilitates offenders' transition from the institution to the community. For example, the GROWTH program uses a series of stepdown activities that begin prior to release from confinement or intensive day treatment and continue during the high-risk 30–60 days after release. Other mechanisms used to modulate community reentry include early parole planning, routine institutional visits by aftercare case managers, and other stepdown structures and procedures.

Use of assessment and classification instruments. With the exception of TOYC, each program uses an assessment and classification system to pinpoint appropriate program participants and to identify their needs. The IAP project in Denver, for instance, uses a standard battery of educational and psychological assessment instruments to develop individualized case plans. The Bethesda Day Treatment Center initiates its program with a needs assessment interview and a treatment evaluation. Project CRAFT requires youth to enter a 2-week assessment stage before the training period to evaluate their motivation and interest in the construction industry.

Individualized case planning. Five of the six programs (the exception is TOYC) use an individualized case planning system to provide appropriate treatment options. For example, the FEI program requires case managers to meet during the initiation phase to establish an individualized treatment plan and assign specific work projects. The Bethesda Day Treatment Center formulates and tailors treatment plans to the specific needs of each youth. At the beginning of treatment and at the beginning of each 3-month period thereafter, the center staff chart a therapeutic direction through the use of short-term goals and the appropriate units of service.

Use of rewards and sanctions. Five of the six programs (the exception is Project CRAFT) employ a system of rewards and sanctions to punish inappropriate behavior and to encourage positive behavior. For instance, the FEI program consists of three graduated phases based on restrictiveness, and progression through the phases is guided by points earned for positive behavior. The TOYC program also uses a point system to provide positive reinforcement. TOYC youth have the opportunity to earn special privileges such as home passes, off-campus activities, special recreational opportunities, and salaried employment. The IAP models offer another example of a rewards and sanctions system. Both the Nevada and Virginia IAP models use rather elaborate systems that involve classifying various behaviors or infractions into multiple tiers and specifying the types of rewards and sanctions that are considered appropriate to each tier.

Links to community treatment services. All of the aftercare programs provide links to community treatment services. The cornerstone of Project CRAFT is its partnership with private juvenile corrections facilities, juvenile judges, juvenile justice system personnel, education agencies, community-based organizations, and other human services agencies. The community link component is also vital to the Bethesda Day Treatment Center and TOYC. The Bethesda Day Treatment Center connects youth to virtually every local agency that serves youth interests. The TOYC aftercare program provides each youth with an individual aftercare worker who links him to a variety of community resources to ensure a continuity of services. GROWTH aftercare staff also work to connect program participants to formal and informal family, neighborhood, and community support, eventually decreasing structured aftercare supervision.

Combination of intensive supervision and treatment. Providing a mix of supervision options is another hallmark of each aftercare system. For example, the IAP model creates a wide-ranging and balanced mix of interventions designed to control offender risk and to address offender needs. The IAP projects in Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia all provide enhanced, IAP-specific programming during the institutional and aftercare phases and create a blend of control and treatment strategies during aftercare. The FEI program also provides an excellent mix of supervision and treatment services. After release from the Last Chance Ranch, youth receive at least four contacts per week from an FEI community coordinator and frequent calls from their case managers, and they must adhere to a strict curfew. In addition, FEI coordinators actively help youth gain admission to school or employment and help them secure services or benefits. This support system continues for 6 months, until the youth graduate from the program.

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Aftercare Services Juvenile Justice Practice Series