NACo Juvenile Justice Forum with the
MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change

Implementing Change and Improving Outcomes

The NACo Juvenile Justice Forum with the MacArthur's Models for Change was held May 7-9 in Cook County, Illinois



Kathy Rowings
Justice Associate

Program Description

Juvenile justice reform is an important issue for counties across the country.  Research shows that youth incarceration decreases kids’ future success in education and employment and increases the likelihood of arrest in adulthood. Counties can reduce costs associated with juvenile incarceration and improve outcomes – for kids and for the community – by providing appropriate treatment and support to youth.

Through support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation​, this one-and-a-half-day forum brought together county leaders, staff and experts from across the country to discuss juvenile justice reforms that are working, how these reforms have made juvenile justice more fair, effective and developmentally appropriate, and how the Models for Change juvenile justice reform initiative can help counties improve public safety and support kids, even when faced with tight budgets.

Through presentations, panel discussions and roundtable exercises, participants learned about research that explains why youth benefit from different treatment than adults, coordinating local and state systems for improved outcomes, meeting the needs of youth with behavioral disorders, reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and more.

+Click here to see the full agenda​.

Thursday Sessions

Opportunities for Collaboration in Juvenile Justice Reform 
A representative from the federal level discussed juvenile justice priorities and how local jurisdictions can collaborate with the federal government to initiate reform, and a youth activist who spent 13 years in detention discussed his experiences in the system.

  • Xavier McElrath-Bey, Youth Justice Advocate, The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

  • Chryl Jones, Deputy Administrator for Progress, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs/U.S. Department of Justice

Coordinated Systems Integration for Improved Outcomes
A growing body of research shows very strong connections between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. This session explained how coordinating these systems to appropriately share data and information, both locally within your county and with state-run programs, can improve your county’s results with this population.

  • John Tuell, (Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice

  • Mark Mertens, Manager, Youth and Family Services Division at Outagamie County (WI) Health & Human Services Dept.

Meetingthe Needs of Justice-Involved Youth with Behavioral Health Disorders​
More than 1.5 million youth are arrested each year and as many as 70 percent of these youth have mental illness and/or substance use disorders.  This session explored the use of community collaboration to effectively provide behavioral health services to youth throughout the judicial process.

How to Effectively Divert Youth and Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Many youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system can be more effectively treated in programs based in the community, rather than being formally processed or held in custody. This is especially true for those youth who are charged with status offenses. Additionally, a disproportionate number of young people who come into contact with the juvenile justice system are youth of color.  Participants heard about successes and challenges in the use of diversion programs.

  • Vidhya Ananthakrishnan, Project Director, Center on Youth Justice, Vera Institute of Justice

  • Ken Burn, Probation Director, Ogle County (IL)

  • Tiana Davis, DMC Policy Director, Center for Children’s Law and Policy

Friday Sessions

Working with Elected Officials to Effect Change in Your County
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle discussed her role as an elected official and policymaker, how she uses this role to effect change and why she is an advocate for juvenile justice reform.  

Preparing Justice-Involved Youth for the Future
Quality post-release supervision, services and supports are crucial to ensuring that young people make safe and successful transitions out of residential placement facilities and back to their home communities.

  • Robert Schwartz, Executive Director, Juvenile Law Center

  • Kimberly Booth, Assistant Chief of Probation, Allegheny County (PA) Representative