Lack of Consistent, Fair, and Immediate Responses to BOTH Dirty and Clean UAs

Written by Wendy Schiller

JDCs conduct drug tests. That is what they do. If they are doing it right, they drug test two to three times per week, randomly. What is not clear is how JDCs respond to the results of the drug tests. If JDCs are conducting two to three drug tests per week, they also need to respond to those results just as often.

Some JDCs are very punitive and have graduated sanction grids that look similar to this:

  • 1st positive drug test = house arrest
  • 2nd positive drug test = one day detention
  • 3rd positive drug test = three days detention
  • 4th positive drug test = MORE detention time

Some JDCs go the complete opposite direction and simply ask the youth to work harder next week. Almost all teams DO NOT have immediate reinforcements (incentives) in place to respond effectively to negative urine analyses (UAs), which is an issue if it is the behavior JDC teams most want to see.

To make matters worse, both approaches are often inconsistent and change when youth are honest, when the team thinks the youth has a valid excuse, or when the team feels that the kid just needs a break. Without adequate ways to monitor and track responses, this system gets even fuzzier for the team, youth, and families.

Stop it! This is one of the 7 Deadly Sins!

Short-Term Solution:

If the team’s graduated sanction grid consists of detention time for dirty UAs, the team should make a commitment to develop a more therapeutic approach/response. The team can simply make a decision not to detain kids when they have a dirty UA. Once that decision is made, the team will be forced to find alternative responses.  Remember that JDCs conduct drug tests to understand youth substance use and insert treatment. If youth find themselves in detention after every use, it basically becomes dead time, when the youth is not benefiting from the program. 

Long-Term Solution:

The team should develop a structured continuum of responses based on contingency management and incorporate the use of a Most Valued Privilege to ensure that responses to positive AND negative UAs are consistent, immediate, and fair. To find out more about how to develop this continuum, click here.