Skip to main content

Designing Your Program


“Designing Your Program” is foundational and should be intentional. This is true for juvenile drug treatment court (JDTCs) teams that are in the planning stages of implementation. JDTCs are specifically designed courts that serve youth with substance use disorders. The treatment and services provided by a JDTC team are highly specialized; therefore, a great deal of strategic implementation and sustainability planning should be prioritized by all stakeholders involved. Use the tips, questions, answers, and resources found here to deliberately design, develop, and sustain an effective JDTC program. 

Operational JDTC programs should consider using the resources in this section to consider what is working in their JDTC and what may not be. For programs that have been operating for a number of years, there may be advances in the field that haven’t been incorporated into practice. This section lets those teams go back to basics.

Tips for Implementation 

  • Read the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines (JDTC Guidelines), which is a research-based set of 31 Guidelines published by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 2016.  
  • Watch virtual training on the JDTC Guidelines, via NCJFCJ’s YouTube channel, to further understand recommended practice.  
  • Begin by assembling a planning team to design the JDTC program in your community. The Starting a Juvenile Drug Court: A Planning Guide to collaboratively develop policies and procedures to run a juvenile drug treatment court. This guide can also be used by fully operational teams to implement enhancements. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we know we need a juvenile drug treatment court? 

  • First, consider the characteristics of youth who benefit the most from the services a JDTC can offer. Research has pointed to three characteristics – youth with a substance use disorder, youth who are at least 14 years old, and youth who have a moderate to high risk of reoffending. 
  • Second, take some time to collect local juvenile justice data related to those three characteristics. Use the worksheet entitled “Define the Problem” on pages 56-60 of Starting a Juvenile Drug Court: A Planning Guide for comprehensive guidance to fully understand the scope of the problem in your area.  

How should we convene a collaborative planning team to develop a JDTC program? 

Begin by assembling a planning team to design the JDTC program in your community. The Starting a Juvenile Drug Court: A Planning Guide suggests that conveners should “…look for individuals who can represent the goals and interests of both their agency and the population to be served. Look also for people who are flexible in how they discharge their responsibilities, who are in a position to influence their agency’s policies and decisions, and who are comfortable with assuming a non-adversarial role.”  

How do we assemble a steering committee and what is the committee’s main purpose? 

It’s likely that some of the stakeholders recruited to form the JDTC planning team will move to a formal steering committee once the JDTC becomes operational. Other members should include leaders from the community who can tap into important services and resources that the operational team will use to meet the needs of youth and families. Both planning and operational teams should work towards establishing a formal steering committee and making decisions around how the steering committee will support the team.