Keeping Youth Out of the Deep End of the Juvenile Justice System

A Developmental Evaluation Overview of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Deep-End Reform

By Urban Institute

September 9, 2020


From 2013 to 2018, the Annie E. Casey Foundation funded a developmental evaluation of a deep-end reform initiative involving 12 juvenile justice jurisdictions across the United States. This initiative, which the Casey Foundation supported through funding and technical assistance, aimed to safely and significantly reduce out-of-home placements for youth, especially youth of color.

Download an infographic summary of the report and additional research briefs

The evaluation — carried out by Urban Institute and Mathematica — focuses on implementation strategies, processes and progress as reported by jurisdictions, courts, partner organizations and other stakeholders of the participating sites.

Among its findings, the evaluation determined that:

  • Communities engaging in deep-end reform conducted multiple activities to reduce out- of-home placements and improve racial and ethnic equity and inclusion in their juvenile justice practices.
  • No single characteristic that appeared linked to the success of deep-end activities, but five particular characteristics were common and considered assets to implementing reform.
  • Racial and ethnic equity and inclusion does not have a one-size-fits-all approach but collaborating with youth, families, community members, and organizations outside if the juvenile justice system is essential for advancing equity and inclusion goals.
  • Certain key factors can help a jurisdiction use data to inform its reforms and decisions. These factors include staff buy-in, expertise in analytical methods and the juvenile justice system and staff capacity to gather data.

This report, which presents the evaluation’s full findings, offers readers a high-level view of the Foundation’s deep-end reform efforts. It explores why deep-end reform is necessary, how sites evolved their activities, and what successes and challenges accompany this work.

Table of Contents

Additional Resources and Research Briefs

Key Takeaway

Deep-end reform is a work in progress

The juvenile justice sites that partnered with the Casey Foundation enacted a range of policies and practices to safely reduce out-of-home placements and address persistent racial and ethnic disparities within the system. Their experiences indicate that deep-end reforms should aim to engage youth, families and community partners while also leveraging the best, most comprehensive data available.

Findings & Stats

Urban keepingyouthoutofthedeepend aspects 2020

Building Better Relationships

In deep-end jurisdictions, three-quarters or more of probation staff reported very often or always working with parents to help youth achieve their goals.

Urban keepingyouthoutofthedeepend assets 2020

The Importance of Empowered Leaders

Eight of nine deep-end sites had leaders with positional power to make decisions and follow through with them.

Urban keepingyouthoutofthedeepend barriers 2020

Progress Blockers

Researchers identified three common barriers to deep-end reforms. These were: 1) site staff turnover; 2) lack of commitment among leadership; and 3) lack of buy-in and collaboration among stakeholders and site staff.

Statements & Quotations