Achieving Confidence with Data Collection: How to Monitor and Manage your Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts Progress

Objective 7: Monitor and Track Program Completion and Termination.

Written by Elizabeth Christensen, Volunteer, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Sarah Trescher, Research Assistant, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Objective 7 has three guidelines for monitoring and tracking your Juvenile Drug Treatment Court (JDTC) program: 1) facilitate equivalent outcomes for all program participants, 2) terminate participants as a last resort, and 3) routinely collect detailed data. How can your JDTC accomplish all three? 

It begins with data collection. The effectiveness of your program can only be determined with data. Hurdles with data collection and analyses can include how to collect data, who collects and analyzes the data, and what data should be collected. 

How you collect data can be as simple as using an Excel spreadsheet, or as sophisticated as using IBM’s SPSS Statistics program. Click here for tools to help you get started. Who collects and analyzes the data can be a JDTC team member, an evaluator, or a local university intern. However, all team members should have some basic knowledge about what data are being collected. Local universities are an excellent resource for data collection and analyses. The Creating Judicial – Academic Partnerships Technical Assistance Brief is a resource that can help you partner with a local university.

What data should be collected is most likely the greatest piece of the puzzle. The Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines (Guidelines) recommend the types of data to collect. Collecting data on the number of participants who graduate and are terminated in each year and on recidivism is important, but JDTCs should look at other factors as well. When participants enter the program, your JDTC should collect demographic information about youth, their scores on screening and risk assessments, charge(s) and previous involvement in the juvenile justice system, drug use history, etc. JDTCs should also track incentives and sanctions given in each phase, the number of drug screens (positive and negative), the average number of days youth are in the JDTC and in each phase, youth retention, and youth treatment progress. JDTCs can also collect youth self-report data regarding home functioning and family cohesion. Positive outcome data can include family-related factors, employment, involvement in prosocial activities, and education-related factors.

The Guidelines state, “Because consistent evidence exists that successful program completion depends on the court’s structure and participant’s commitment to the process, JDTCs are encouraged to work with each participant individually to find a structure that maximizes the use of incentives, uses graduated sanctions appropriately and consistently, and supports family engagement in meaningful and empowering ways.” This can be accomplished with data collection.   

Short-Term Actions

Identify your JDTC’s current practices on data collection and analyses. Select a uniform method for collecting data.  Decide who is going to collect and analyze the data. Determine what data are already being collected and what additional data can be collected. Finally, decide how often the data analyses will be reviewed. 

Long-Term Actions

Use the data analyses to guide program decisions. Look at outcomes for all program participants across gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Are outcomes equivalent? Let your data tell you.  Are you terminating participants as a last resort? Let your data tell you. Are you incentivizing youth for positive behavior? Let your data tell you. Examine assessments of your JDTC for correlations between practices and outcome measures. In doing so, you can guide your court to achieve best practices for serving youth. 

Click below to link to additional resources