Supporting the Nation's Judicial System & the Public it Serves

Juvenile Justice Reform

SJI supports innovative projects that advance best practices in handling dependency and delinquency cases; promote effective court oversight of juveniles in the justice system; address the impact of trauma on juvenile behavior; assist the courts in identification of appropriate provision of services for juveniles; and address juvenile re-entry.

Juvenile Justice Court Improvement: Creating a Sustainable, Multi-Tiered System of Training, Best Practice Resources, and Forums for Collaboration

The Council of State Governments Justice Center and National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will formalize and sustain a national juvenile justice training and resource center for judicial officers, administrators, and attorneys.

Addressing Homelessness for Youth Involved in the Juvenile and Family Justice System 

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will provide training on, and implementation and pilot testing of A Toolkit for Identifying Youth Experiencing Homelessness in the Justice System: Using a Structured Process to Recognize Red Flags and Ensure Housing First Approaches.  A pilot in Washoe County, Nevada, will improve the juvenile and family court system’s ability to identify youth who are experiencing homelessness and to respond with resources. A process evaluation will enable this project to serve as a model to replicate.

Probation and Youth Justice System Review Project

The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice will conduct a Probation and Youth Justice System Review Project in three selected jurisdictions and implement recommendations from the analysis and review. Selected jurisdictions will receive tailored technical assistance, consultation, and support to achieve replicable, measurable, and sustainable system transformation and enhanced positive youth outcomes within their respective probation, court, and youth justice systems.

Supporting Shared Juvenile Assessment Center Outcomes and Measures

The National Assessment Center Association (NAC) will support existing and developing Assessment Centers around the country in developing and reporting out on shared outcomes and data points that will allow for the Assessment Center community to speak to collective impact on juvenile justice diversion and prevention through the Assessment Center Framework.

Juvenile Court Judges 50-State Landscape Analysis, Partner with States to Assess & Improve Juvenile Court Policy & Practice, and Establish National a Training Institute

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center has partnered with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to conduct a 50-state landscape analysis of juvenile court policies and practices. The goal of this project is to uplift the critical role of juvenile court judges as a specialty practice, establish an unprecedented baseline for the adoption of key juvenile court policies and practices in every state, and ensure that state and local policies and court rules position judges statewide to implement evidence-based approaches.

Through statutory and court rule analysis, surveys, and focus groups with juvenile court judges, the CSG Justice Center and NCJFCJ will conduct state-by-state analysis on how juvenile court judges are appointed, rotated, and trained, as well as positioned to make research-based court decisions, promote evidence-based practices, and lead juvenile justice system reform efforts.  This analysis will identify key trends and best practices, produce, and disseminate a national report with nationwide and state-by-state analysis, and conduct extensive judicial education, training, and other information sharing with states and the field to highlight and advance opportunities to uplift and support the critical role of juvenile court judges in promoting public safety and improved outcomes for youth.

The study findings released in Phase 1 of this project, identified a number of gaps.  To address those gaps CSG and NCJFCJ will provide extensive technical assistance to three states as well as development and implement a national juvenile justice court training institute.

 Juvenile Probation Guidelines

Since 2005, with the original publication of Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Juvenile Delinquency Cases (JDG), the NCJFCJ has worked with juvenile justice courts to promulgate best practices in juvenile delinquency proceedings.  The purpose of the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines was to set forth the essential elements of effective practice for the court processes that are involved in the handling of juvenile delinquency cases.  It identified recommended practices throughout the juvenile delinquency court system – from the determination of whether a case should enter the formal juvenile delinquency court system, to determination as to whether juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction should be waived and the youth transferred to criminal court, as well as post-disposition review of the reentry process for youth returning to the community from out-of-home placement.

In 2017, the NCJFCJ revisited the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines to ensure that it reflected the changes in court practice, advances in brain science, the understanding of adolescent development and the juvenile specific rulings from the Supreme Court.  The  Enhanced Juvenile Justice Guidelines contains up-to-date information on general court processes, initiating juvenile justice court processes, best practices in detention or initial hearings, waiver and transfer hearings, trial/adjudication hearings, disposition hearings, the appeals process, post-disposition reviews, and probation and parole violations.

The overarching goals of the final phase of the Enhanced Juvenile Justice Guidelines project are to further develop the Court Self-Assessment Tool, to identify and address the needs of the juvenile justice field through the use of demonstration sites, and to promulgate the EJJG as widely as possibly to ensure its broad adoption nationwide.

National Juvenile Justice Transformation Symposium

The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice hosted the Transformation of Youth Justice Symposium and Training Institutes. The Symposium featured five plenaries and 30 workshops focused on current and significant cross-cutting issues impacting the youth-serving field. The supplemental half-day Training Institute sessions focused on six critical topics, that highlighted opportunities and methods to significantly enhance current practice to improve system performance and ensure the highest likelihood of achieving positive outcomes for youth and families.

Judicial Role in Ensuring Fairness and Due Process Rights for Youth

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) partnered with the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to develop bench cards and associated judicial education related to Addressing Bias in Delinquency and Child Welfare Systems and Honoring Gault:  Ensuring Access to Counsel in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Juvenile Justice Reform and State Courts Initiative (JJRSCI)

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) along with the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the Center for Children’s Law & Policy (CCLP), the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), and the RFK National Resource Center (RFK-NRC) partner to form the Expert Working Group for the JJRSCI.  Building on the Models for Change Initiative supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Working Group continues to identify juvenile justice policy, procedures, and practices that should be reformed; propose projects to be funded by the initiative; provide expertise to identify subject matter experts; and provide TA, training and other activities to the state teams as they continue to implement their action plans.  They also promote court community sharing by disseminating information about the initiative and its resources through various websites, conference presentations, and social media.