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County Solutions and Innovation Blog​​
January 14
NACo Partners with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change to Promote Juvenile Justice Reform

Written by Kathy Rowings​, Justice Associate​


NACo is proud to announce a new partnership with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative. Models for Change promotes evidence-based practices at the state and local level to make juvenile justice more fair, effective, rational and developmentally appropriate.

Juvenile justice reform is an important issue for counties across the country.  The United States has the highest juvenile detention rate of the world’s developed nations, despite the fact that research shows that youth incarceration does not reduce recidivism but does decrease kids’ future success in education and employment – starting the often prevalent cycle in and out of jail even earlier. Counties can reduce costs associated with juvenile incarceration and improve human outcomes while also bolstering public safety by identifying juveniles that can be better served with treatment rather than jail time, and by providing young people involved in the juvenile justice system with skills, training and support that will enable them to pursue educational and employment opportunities.  Models for Change focuses its reforms efforts on targeted issues including mental health, racial and ethnic disparity, community-based alternatives and juvenile indigent defense; NACo will provide counties with information and resources about these important topics and work with officials to create a comprehensive approach to addressing juvenile justice issues in their communities.

Models for Change provides an extensive set of resources counties can use to learn about juvenile justice reforms and to help improve their own juvenile justice systems.  Four resource centers provide administrators, practitioners and policymakers with technical assistance, trainings and proven tools in areas that are critical to continued advancements in juvenile justice.

These resource centers focus on:

  1. Better responses to juveniles’ mental health needs
  2. Stronger public defense for indigent youth
  3. Appropriate interventions for youth charged with status offenses (like truancy, running away and curfew violations)
  4. Improved coordinated systems of care for dual-status youth (youth who are involved with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems)

Models for Change also hosted its 8th Annual Models for Change National Working Conference in December in Washington, D.C.   - County, state, and city leaders, youth advocates, developmental experts, and practitioners came together to discuss innovations and practices in juvenile justice reform and learn from one another about successful work that’s being done and what more needs to be achieved.  Several counties were highlighted, including Sedgwick County, Kan., which has implemented a diversion program for youth who commit minor offenses at school, and Jefferson County, Ky., which has been working to end the incarceration of youth charged with status offenses.  To view the conference’s full agenda, see the list of speakers and access the resources provided at the meeting, click here.

For more information on this partnership or to tell NACo about ways in which YOUR county is already involved in juvenile justice reform, contact Kathy Rowings at 202.942.4279 or​


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