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Practice Profile

Juvenile Aftercare Programs

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Juvenile aftercare consists of reintegrative services designed to prepare juvenile offenders, who were placed out of their homes, for reentry into the community. The overall goal of aftercare programs is to reduce the recidivism rates of juvenile offenders.

Practice Activities
Aftercare programs are for juvenile offenders who serve time in out-of-home placements following adjudication. Out-of-home placements include detention, secure confinement, wilderness or boot camps, group homes, and residential treatment. They generally start while the youth are detained, continue through their transition into the community, and are maintained during the supervision period in the community (Weaver and Campbell 2015). Aftercare requires collaboration between the confinement facility and the community to ensure effective delivery of services and supervision. It may also involve partnerships between public and private organizations to expand the overall capacity of youth services.

There are a variety of aftercare programs with different components. Generally, aftercare intervention strategies concentrate on changing individual behavior and thereby preventing further delinquency. For example, an aftercare program may be curriculum-based with sessions that cover various coping skills, or a program that focuses on individual therapy while the juvenile is in secure confinement and then transitions to family-based therapy after release. 
Aftercare programs differ from the traditional juvenile justice model. For instance, youths in aftercare programs receive services and supervision as they transition into the community and while they are under supervision in the community. Conversely, in the traditional juvenile justice system, juveniles are supervised for a certain amount of time and are not guaranteed services (Development Services Group, Inc. 2010; Weaver and Campbell 2015). 

Practice Theory
Out-of-home placements disrupt a juvenile’s life; the youth is physically removed from family, school, and the wider community. As a result, he or she may lose the support that family and friends can provide. Moreover, this transition is even more difficult for juveniles who are already experiencing the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Overall, juvenile aftercare programs aim to overcome these challenges by offering reintegrative services in the hope of reducing recidivism (James et al. 2013; Development Services Group, Inc. 2010).

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Overall, the results from two meta-analyses examining the impact of juvenile aftercare programs on recidivism rates of juvenile offenders found mixed results. James and colleagues (2013) analyzed the impact of juvenile aftercare programs on recidivism by aggregating the results from 22 studies. They found an overall mean effect size of 0.12, meaning that aftercare had a small, yet significant impact on recidivism. However, Weaver and Campbell (2015) analyzed the results from 30 studies and found that although juvenile aftercare appeared to reduce recidivism for juvenile offenders, the impact was not significant.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11990 - 2009224595
Meta-Analysis 21990 - 2009306620

Meta-Analysis 1
James and colleagues (2013) reviewed studies that examined the effectiveness of aftercare programs on juvenile recidivism. A comprehensive search of bibliographic databases, bibliographies of previous meta-analyses, and literature reviews was conducted. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search. Studies were not excluded on the basis of geographic location or language. 

To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to 1) use an experimental and/or quasi-experimental design; 2) evaluate reentry or aftercare interventions aimed at decreasing recidivism for juveniles; 3) incorporate a treatment modality, such as skills training, counseling, and cognitive behavior therapy; and 4) include only participants who had spent time in a form of detention when enrolled in the reentry or aftercare program that had started during or immediately after their detention. The treatment group comprised youths who had joined the aftercare program either during detention or post-release, and the control group youths were those assigned to a care-as-usual group. The care-as-usual group received services such as regular probation supervision without therapeutic treatment. 

Participants included juvenile males and females of various ethnic backgrounds. The minimum age for entering the program was set at 10 years. The maximum age was set at 25 rather than 18 years. The researchers believed that juveniles do not suddenly become adults at the age of 18; instead, the process of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is an emerging one that occurs over time. 

The search yielded a final sample of 22 eligible studies, 9 of which were randomized controlled studies, 6 were matched control group studies, and 7 were quasi-experimental studies. It is important to note that in addition to the inclusion of studies of youths committed to juvenile-oriented facilities, studies of young adults incarcerated in adult facilities were also considered eligible. The total number of participants across the 22 studies was 4,595, and the majority of participants were male. 

The outcome of interest was recidivism. Studies were eligible if they included at least one measure of the following: 1) any new conviction/adjudication of any new crime committed after exiting a correctional facility based on official records, and 2) any new arrest after exiting the correctional facility based on official records. 

The authors used a fixed-effects model to analyze the impact of juvenile aftercare on recidivism.

Meta-Analysis 2
Weaver and Campbell (2015) reviewed studies to determine the treatment impact of aftercare programs for young offenders. To be eligible for inclusion in the review, studies had to
  1. Evaluate an aftercare program in which juvenile offenders were committed to a detention center or similar facility for a period of time, and then released to transition back into the community. Aftercare had to consist of monitoring, supervision, and various services intended to promote a successful reentry into the community.
  2. Include a control group. Although studies had to include a control group to be eligible for inclusion, there were no specific control conditions.
  3. Include participants who were committed to a youth-oriented facility or detention center prior to their transition into the community. Studies that included juveniles who were incarcerated in adult prisons or jails were excluded from the meta-analysis.
A comprehensive search of bibliographic databases, bibliographies of previous meta-analyses, and literature reviews was conducted. Both published and unpublished reports were included in the search. Studies were not excluded on the basis of geographic location or time period. 

The search yielded a total of 30 studies that were eligible for inclusion, which included a total of 6,620 participants (3,114 in the treatment group and 3,506 in the control group). In contrast to the review by James and colleagues (2013), only studies that involved youths committed to juvenile-oriented facilities were eligible for inclusion. The mean age of participants in both the treatment and control groups was 16.5. 

The outcome of interest was recidivism, which included felonies and misdemeanors and excluded status and traffic offenses. The authors used a random-effects model to analyze the impact of juvenile aftercare programs on recidivism. 
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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James and colleagues (2013) included additional tests—called moderator analyses—to see if any factors strengthened the impact of juvenile aftercare on recidivism outcomes. The moderator analysis revealed three factors that impacted the effectiveness: sample characteristics, treatment characteristics, and study characteristics. Sample characteristics: Through conducting a moderator analysis, James and colleagues found that the type of offense impacted the effectiveness of aftercare programs. Overall, the moderator analysis revealed that aftercare programs are most effective for high-risk offenders and juveniles who have committed violent crimes. Treatment characteristics: Whether the treatment was directed at the individual or the system or both had an impact on the effectiveness of aftercare programs. The moderator analysis revealed that the greatest effect size was found when aftercare focused solely on the individual. The effect size for systemic treatment was slightly smaller, and a negative effect was found for treatments that had both an individual and systemic focus. These results indicate that individual-focused aftercare treatment is most effective in reducing recidivism. Study characteristics: The moderator analysis revealed that the length of follow-up time when recidivism was measured impacted the effect sizes. For example, larger effect sizes were found when recidivism was measured before 12 months, rather than when recidivism was measured 1 year or later, following release. These results suggest that the impact of aftercare may fade over time.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
James, Chrissy, Geert Jan J.M. Stams, Jessica J. Asscher, Anne Katrien De Roo, and Peter H. van der Laan. 2013. “Aftercare Programs for Reducing Recidivism Among Juvenile and Young Adult Offenders: A Meta-Analytic Review.” Clinical Psychology Review 33: 263–74.

Meta-Analysis 2
Weaver, Robert D., and Derek Campbell. 2015. “Fresh Start: A Meta-Analysis of Aftercare Programs for Juvenile Offenders.” Research on Social Work Practice 25(2): 201–12.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Development Services Group, Inc. 2010. “Aftercare/Reentry.” Literature Review. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
http://www.ojjdp.gov/mpg/litreviews/Aftercare.pdf
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Related Programs

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated programs that are related to this practice:

Operation New Hope Promising - One study
A curriculum-based aftercare treatment program (formerly called Lifeskills ’95) designed to help chronic, high-risk juvenile offenders reintegrate back into the community after they are released from confinement. The program is rated Promising. Participants were more successful at parole, less likely to be arrested or use drugs, displayed greater improvements in social behavior, and were more likely to be employed compared to the control group parolees.

Avon Park Youth Academy and STREET Smart Aftercare Program No Effects - One study
This program was located at a secure-custody residential facility that provided educational and vocational training to moderate-risk male youths. It incorporated a reentry component that provided services to youths post-release to the community. The program is rated No Effects. Results suggest there were no statistically significant differences in recidivism and employment measures; and a small, statistically significant positive difference in degree attainment among participants.

Wayne County (Michigan) Second Chance Reentry Program Promising - One study
This is a reentry program designed to reduce recidivism and increase reentry services for males, ages 13 to 18, who have committed offenses and are placed in a locked, residential treatment facility. The program is rated Promising. The program was shown to statistically significantly decrease recidivism rates among youths who participated in the program, compared with youths who received services as usual.

Skillman Intensive Aftercare Program (Pittsburgh and Detroit) No Effects - More than one study
This was an aftercare program in Pittsburgh (Penn.) and Detroit (Mich.) for juveniles transitioning out of a residential correctional program. The intent of the program was to decrease instances of reconviction and re-arrest among participating youths after their release into the community. The program is rated No Effects. There were no statistically significant effects on rates of reconviction and rearrest among program participants in either city.

Philadelphia (Penn.) Intensive Aftercare Probation Program Promising - One study
This program was an intensive alternative reintegration program for high-risk male juveniles who were being released to probation from a juvenile corrections facility. The program is rated Promising. Results showed that while there were no differences between the treatment and comparison groups on the percent who had been re-arrested during the 9-month follow up, the treatment group had a statistically significantly lower number of re-arrests than the comparison group.

Functional Family Parole Promising - One study
This is a supervision program that incorporates family-focused, strengths-based principles of Functional Family Therapy. The goal of the program is to reduce re-arrests and increase employment rates. The program is rated Promising. Participants in the intervention were less likely to be re-arrested, more likely to be employed, and earned more per quarter, compared with the comparison group. These findings were statistically significant.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 10 - 25

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Other, White

Targeted Population: Prisoners

Settings: Correctional, Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Aftercare/Reentry, Family Therapy, Group Home, Individual Therapy, Probation/Parole Services, Wraparound/Case Management

Unit of Analysis: Persons