clear Highlights

Evaluations of School-Related Projects

In recent years, OJJDP has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education (through the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office) and other Federal agencies to launch several school-related demonstration programs that include national evaluations. Two important efforts being managed by OJJDP’s Research Division are national evaluations of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative and the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program.

  • Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students evaluation, being conducted by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in Research Triangle Park, NC, will carefully document the initiative’s activities and outcomes at 77 Safe Schools/Healthy Students sites. The evaluation encompasses the formation of community collaboratives, the impact of the collaborations on school safety and health, student development, economic analyses, surveillance of core indicators, and intensive outcome analyses.

  • Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program. The Colorado Foundation for Families and Children is conducting the national evaluation of the Truancy Reduction Demonstration Program. The evaluation will examine the seven sites that received demonstration funding, document the implementation process and challenges the sites have faced, and gather specific information about the interventions and student and family outcomes. A primary goal of the evaluation is to identify key components of projects that have successfully reduced truancy and other risk factors for delinquency. Findings are expected in 2002.

  • Annual Report on School Safety. OJJDP also works with the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Office to produce the Annual Report on School Safety, which provides an overview of the nature and extent of crime and violence on school property. The report describes measures taken by some schools to prevent and address school violence and provides communities with guidelines for reducing school violence in their jurisdictions. OJJDP’s Web site (www.ojjdp.ncjrs.org) provides online access to the most recent version of the report.

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Evaluations of Substance Abuse Programs

—Drug-Free Communities Support Program

The Drug-Free Communities Support Program (DFCSP) is designed to strengthen community-based coalitions’ efforts to reduce substance abuse by youth. The coalitions include community representatives from the following groups or areas: youth; parents; business; media; schools; youth service organizations; law enforcement; civic groups; volunteer organizations; fraternal groups; healthcare professionals; State, local, or tribal government agencies with expertise in the field of substance abuse; and other organizations involved in reducing substance abuse. The program enables coalitions to enhance collaboration and coordination in an effort to target the use of illegal drugs and the underage use of alcohol and tobacco. Coalitions also encourage citizen participation in efforts to reduce substance abuse and disseminate information about effective programs.

In 1999, Caliber Associates, Inc., received an award to evaluate DFCSP. The evaluation has two components—a process evaluation and an outcome evaluation of community-based, collaborative substance abuse prevention projects whose initiatives (1) target the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco by juveniles and (2) implement comprehensive long-term plans to reduce substance abuse and study its relationship to youth violence. The process evaluation is examining the implementation of programs in more than 100 sites. Twelve of these sites will be studied in depth to measure the outcome of program activities.

Early findings of the evaluation indicate that DFCSP coalitions serve urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas. Coalitions are concentrated in urban and suburban areas (40 percent) and in areas that encompass urban, suburban, and rural communities (34 percent). A large proportion of coalitions target an entire community (42 percent), approximately one-fourth target youth, and almost one-third target a specific age group (elementary, middle, or high school). The strategies and activities that coalitions plan to implement reflect the range of services and activities frequently used in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. Forty-six percent of coalitions engage in data-driven planning and decisionmaking with other agencies, 37 percent continue to mobilize and form partnerships, 55 percent provide training and education services, and 56 percent plan to improve their information-sharing techniques. Evaluators continue to track the implementation of these programs, and final results are expected in 2003.

Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws Program

OJJDP is helping States address the problem of underage drinking through a $25 million per year program of block grants, discretionary programs, and training and technical assistance. OJJDP’s Enforcing the Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) program (formerly the Combating Underage Drinking program) is helping all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to develop comprehensive and coordinated initiatives to enforce State laws that prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors (defined as individuals under 21 years of age) and to prevent the purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors. States are using funds from this program to support activities in one or more of the three areas outlined in the legislation: enforcement, public education activities, and innovative programs. In addition to providing block grant funds, OJJDP awards States and other jurisdictions discretionary funds to foster State and local collaboration in developing comprehensive approaches to the problem of underage drinking, with an emphasis on increasing law enforcement activity. Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, received a grant from OJJDP to evaluate States’ and local communities’ use of their block grants and discretionary funds and the program’s impact during its first 2 years in a sample of communities.

The evaluation design includes four major data collection components:

  • A telephone survey of key actors in the program from all 50 States.

  • Indepth case studies of program implementation in six States.

  • Telephone surveys of a sample of youth ages 16 to 20 in the six States.

  • A telephone survey of police departments and sheriff’s offices in a sample of States that have received grants.

Early findings of these surveys and case studies indicate that the EUDL program is bringing together groups that have not previously worked together— particularly law enforcement agencies and substance abuse treatment agencies. Some States appear to be facing difficulties in program implementation— especially among agencies that have limited experience working together (such as alcohol beverage control agencies, which are reportedly involved in the program in 66 percent of States). The survey also indicates that citizens’ groups—such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)—are highly involved in the program in only 28 States.

Data from the evaluation’s youth survey underscore the magnitude of the underage drinking problem. Data show that underage drinking is pervasive, with about half (46 percent) of the sample of youth ages 16 to 20 reporting current alcohol use (within the past 30 days), 27 percent reporting alcohol use during the past 7 days, and 21 percent reporting binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion during a 2-week period). Moreover, a substantial percentage of youth surveyed reported engaging in a number of risky behaviors associated with alcohol use, including driving while under the influence of alcohol and riding with a driver who has been drinking. Negative consequences of drinking reported by current drinkers in the sample included experiencing headaches and hangovers, being unable to remember what had happened after a drinking incident, passing out, getting into fights, having sex without birth control, breaking or damaging property, missing school, and being the victim of a forced sex attempt.

These and other early findings provide a good baseline for continued evaluation of the EUDL program. Final evaluation results are expected in 2002.

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Child Victimization

Although the focus of OJJDP’s work has traditionally been on juvenile offenders, its program and research activities also target child victimization. In 2000, OJJDP established the Child Protection Division to consolidate OJJDP’s demonstration, replication, and technical assistance and training projects focusing on child victimization. In furtherance of these efforts, the Research Division manages several important research and evaluation projects that relate to child victimization. Descriptions of several of these programs follow.

—Safe Start Demonstration Project

The purpose of the Safe Start Demonstration Project is to prevent and reduce the impact of family and community violence on young children (primarily from birth to age 6). The project promotes the creation of comprehensive service delivery systems by helping communities expand existing partnerships among service providers in the fields of early childhood education/development, health, mental health, family strengthening and support, domestic violence prevention, substance abuse prevention and treatment, crisis intervention, child welfare, law enforcement, courts, and legal services. These comprehensive service delivery systems are designed to improve access to and quality of services for young children at high risk of exposure to violence, young children who have already been exposed to violence, and both groups’ families and caregivers. The following nine sites have received Safe Start awards and are now in the planning phase of the project: Baltimore, MD; Bridgeport, CT; Chatham County, NC; Chicago, IL; Pinellas County, FL; Rochester, NY; San Francisco, CA; Spokane, WA; and Washington County, ME.

The Safe Start evaluation will document and assess these communities’ efforts to prevent and reduce the impact of family and community violence on young children. The overall evaluation design is intended to allow researchers to carefully document the formative aspects of the project and measure the project’s effectiveness in terms of level of implementation of the strategic planning process, extent of systems reform and service integration, and impact of the initiative on the lives of children and families. At the national level, evaluation activities will be carried out by the National Evaluation Team, which includes staff from four organizations: Caliber Associates, Inc.; the Association for the Study and Development of Community; Roper Starch Worldwide, Inc.; and Research Triangle Institute. The staff will provide ongoing training and technical assistance to local site evaluators in designing and implementing plans to assess the impact of specific local programs and strategies.

—Second Comprehensive Study of Missing Children

The first National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART 1) was conducted in 1988 and published in 1990. This study was conducted pursuant to the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, which requires periodic studies of the scope of the problem of missing children in the United States. NISMART 1 provided the first comprehensive data available on the incidence of missing children. Although NISMART 1 was an important study, the data are already more than a decade old.

NISMART 2, currently under way, is the second national study to measure the incidence of each category of missing children. Researchers surveyed 16,000 households to determine how many children are missing on an annual basis. NISMART 2 also included a survey of approximately 8,000 youth to determine what happens during missing child episodes. In addition, the survey included interviews of law enforcement officers to secure information about child abductions, interviews of directors of youth residential programs to determine how many residents run away from such settings, and an analysis of data on thrownaway children (youth who have been abandoned or forced from their homes). Results of NISMART 2 (expected in 2001) will help parents and other members of the public better understand the dimensions of the missing children problem and the factors that place children at greatest risk of becoming missing. Practitioners and policymakers can use the new information to design programs and policies to ensure the safety of the Nation’s youth. The study is being conducted for OJJDP by the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA; the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, Durham; and Westat, Inc., of Rockville, MD.

Crimes against Children Research Center

Supported by OJJDP’s Research Division, the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) works to combat crimes against children by conducting high-quality research and providing statistics to members of the public, policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and child welfare practitioners. CCRC focuses its research on both the nature and impact of crimes such as child abduction, homicide, rape, assault, and physical and sexual abuse. CCRC, which is located at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, produces a variety of informative publications on child victimization issues for the field.

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Pathways to Desistance: A Prospective Study of Serious Adolescent Offenders

During the past few decades, researchers of adolescent crime and disorders have shown increasing interest in and appreciation for placing a particular period of development (e.g., adolescence) within the context of an individual’s entire life course. This is often referred to as a “life course approach” to investigations. This emphasis has resulted in several large longitudinal studies that have significantly improved researchers’ understanding of the development of antisocial behavior in adolescents. Juvenile justice and child welfare professionals can use information provided by such studies to make better informed decisions regarding policy and practice. For example, the identification of risk factors that precede the onset of specific problem behaviors provides valuable information about where communities should concentrate programming resources for children of different ages. Existing longitudinal research, however, has not been particularly useful in providing clear guidance for dealing with adolescents who are already deeply involved in the juvenile justice system. Evidence is sketchy on the relative influences of interventions, sanctions, and developmental events on outcomes for serious adolescent offenders. Although a significant percentage of adolescent offenders decrease or stop antisocial activity in late adolescence, it is unclear exactly how such desistance occurs or what factors influence the process.

Through a partnership with the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation, OJJDP is sponsoring a study that will intensively follow a sample of 1,200 serious adolescent offenders in Philadelphia, PA, and Phoenix, AZ, as they navigate late adolescence. The study, Pathways to Desistance: A Prospective Study of Serious Adolescent Offenders, will bring together a number of respected researchers (see Pathways to Desistance for a listing) and demonstrate the cooperative efforts of several Federal agencies and private foundations.

The goals of the Pathways to Desistance study are to describe patterns of desistance from delinquent and criminal behavior, identify key developmental events related to desistance, and compare the effects of different interventions and sanctions on desistance. Specifically, the study seeks to:

  • Determine whether there are distinct pathways out of involvement with juvenile crime and, if so, identify such pathways.

  • Identify the characteristics of adolescents who progress along each of these pathways.

  • Identify the types of life events or influences that appear to promote desistance from criminal activity among adolescents.

  • Determine the type and magnitude of the effect that researchers can expect from the intervention strategies most commonly used with serious adolescent offenders.

Findings from the study will provide policymakers with evidence regarding the utility of different processing and sanctioning options, a topic widely discussed at the State and national level. Findings will also be valuable to practitioners who need direction regarding what factors to consider during risk assessments and what indicators to monitor or assess on an ongoing basis when working with serious adolescent offenders.

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Working With States and Communities To Improve Evaluation and Information Collection Efforts

OJJDP has several projects that focus on helping communities evaluate their efforts to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency and risky behavior. These projects include the Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center (JJEC) and the Juvenile Justice Statistics and Systems Development Project.

Principal investigators for this project are Edward P. Mulvey, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Cauffman, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Department of Law and Psychiatry. Other researchers on the project are Larry Steinberg, Ph.D., of Temple University and Jeffrey Fagan, Ph.D., of Columbia University.

—Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center

The goal of JJEC is to provide training, technical assistance, and other resources to States to enhance their ability to evaluate juvenile justice programs. The first phase of the project focused on assessing existing evaluation practices and technical assistance needs in 56 “States” (i.e., jurisdictions eligible to receive OJJDP formula and block grants), especially as they relate to programs and initiatives funded through OJJDP’s State Formula Grants Program. The assessment included a survey of three groups of State juvenile justice stakeholders: juvenile justice specialists, Statistical Analysis Center (SAC) directors, and State Advisory Group (SAG) chairs. Results of the assessment show that training and technical assistance should:

  • Increase knowledge at the State and local level of evaluation principles and techniques.

  • Help States develop and improve infrastructures for supporting systematic evaluation.

  • Foster relationships between State agencies, local programs, and evaluators.

The following ongoing activities of JJEC are designed to address the needs identified in the assessment:

  • Conducting four regional evaluation training conferences with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. The training conferences feature a combination of skill-building workshops and sessions highlighting successful local and national juvenile justice evaluation efforts.

  • Providing onsite technical assistance to States that are designing evaluation systems, developing statewide performance measures for juvenile justice projects, or conducting large-scale evaluation studies.

  • Supporting the Justice Research and Statistics Association’s Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center Online.

  • Providing seed money to encourage partnerships between SACs and SAGs. The goal of such partnerships is to build sustainable relationships that will enhance juvenile justice evaluation capacity over the long term.
The Justice Research and Statistics Association’s Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center Online

The Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center Online, supported by OJJDP, is designed to provide evaluation resources and information specific to juvenile justice programs and initiatives. The Web site (www.jrsa.org/jjec) provides guidance to States and localities conducting their own evaluations and includes an evaluation manual that details how local programs can collect and use evaluation material. The site also includes a series of nontechnical briefing papers related to the evaluation of juvenile justice programs and provides contact information for States interested in benefiting from onsite help in designing evaluation systems, developing statewide performance measures for juvenile justice projects, or conducting large-scale evaluation studies.

—Juvenile Justice Statistics and Systems Development Project

To meet the challenge of managing cases involving youth effectively and efficiently, juvenile court administrators and judges need ready access to information that will support the operation, management, and decisionmaking of the full-service juvenile court system. Broad knowledge and effective decisionmaking, which should be hallmarks of every juvenile justice system, require not only the collection of data but the collaboration of community leaders who will give meaning to the data. This need for collaboration is the focus of the book Juvenile Justice With Eyes Open, produced by the Juvenile Justice Statistics and Systems Development (SSD) project and published by NCJJ in 2000. Using concepts from this book, the SSD project developed and field-tested an approach that local jurisdictions can use to systematically identify and, in turn, fulfill their information needs. This approach includes:

  • Conducting trainings and seminars for local juvenile justice leaders on use of the rational decisionmaking model as a design tool for management information systems.

  • Developing data specifications necessary for an effective information system to meet a jurisdiction’s operational, management, and research needs.

  • Identifying the data needs of collateral service providers.

  • Modeling agreements and protocols with collateral service providers to allow for the sharing of case-level and/or aggregate data.

The SSD project has also identified several jurisdictions across the country that are effectively using juvenile justice information to make key juvenile justice decisions, such as determining the sentences of juvenile offenders. Case studies of these jurisdictions will be published in 2001.

OJJDP Projects That Help States and Communities Enhance Evaluation Capacity
  • Juvenile Justice Evaluation Center (Justice Research and Statistics Association).

  • Juvenile Justice Statistics and Systems Development Project (National Center for Juvenile Justice, Pittsburgh, PA).

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OJJDP Research 2000 OJJDP Report
May 2001