Adolescents in underserved, urban communities are disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system. Youth involvement in the court system is a serious public health concern. In recent years, juvenile justice professionals have begun to supplement traditional efforts aimed at discipline and punishment with an asset- based perspective referred to as "positive youth justice" (PYJ). The PYJ approach encourages young court participants to build upon their existing strengths, while learning and mastering new life skills, through development of pro-social relationships within their peer groups, families, and communities. These "core assets" are posited to promote the successful entry into young adulthood. The proposed research application is being submitted in response to PA-12-171 "Pilot and Feasibility Studies in Preparation for Drug Abuse Prevention Trials." This proposal requests funding to adapt and test a multi-level intervention for the youth court setting, which wil have strong potential to reduce substance use and delinquency while promoting a successful and healthy transition into young adulthood for first-time offenders. [The initial component of the project will involve interviewing program directors from a representative sample of youth courts throughout the US with the purpose of gaining formative feedback about logistical and programming needs. The second component of the proposed research is designed to promote system-level change and consists of a feasibility trial of a staff development training for youth court service providers. The workshop will focus on the concepts and practical guidelines of the PYJ model and will train providers to promote pro-social attachment and community involvement for youth participants.] The third component is designed to enhance individual-level skills among youth and consists of an adaptation of the Life Skills Training (LST) program, which is strongly aligned with the PYJ model and teaches personal self- management skills, social skills, drug refusal skills, and other life skills needed to successfully navigate developmental tasks, increase resilience, and facilitate healthy psychosocial development. Some youth courts have already independently adopted LST, suggesting that it meets a perceived need and is feasible in this setting. However, LST has never been rigorously tested in the youth court setting. We will conduct a randomized efficacy trial of LST in the Youth Court of the District of Columbia (YCDC), the largest youth court in the nation. We will test for efficacy o the proposed youth intervention using quantitative data gathered through a multi-informant approach. The staff training will be evaluated using qualitative and quantitative methods. By intervening with both youth court participants and staff, the proposed multi-level intervention can have a broad impact on risk and protective factors at multiple levels of influence. The proposed intervention components will be developed in preparation for a subsequent randomized controlled trial of the combined intervention in the over 1,200 youth peer court systems across the country.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research is designed to adapt and test an evidence-based drug abuse prevention approach for use in youth courts among first-time, non-violent, adolescent offenders. The ultimate goal is to reduce the adverse health, legal, and social consequences of youth drug abuse, violence, and delinquency.] Planned project activities include conducting: 1) key informant interviews of youth court directors regarding logistical and intervention features of effective youth court programming;2) a staff development training on the principles of Positive Youth Justice and importance of attachment to pro-social community outlets;and 3) a randomized controlled efficacy trial of an adapted version of Life Skills Trainin, an evidence-based drug and violence prevention program, at the nation's largest youth court. It is anticipated that the findings will provide critical information on implementing evidence-based prevention programs for new populations and settings and will support preparations for a large-scale effectiveness trial in youth peer courts.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Planning Grant (R34)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Reider, Eve
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National Health Promotion Associates
White Plains
United States
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