In 2006, the Center received a juvenile justice learning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to assist the Foundation in targeting its investment in programs across the state that help the most vulnerable youth reach adulthood successfully. The Center worked to identify proven or promising programs aimed at preventing at-risk youth from entering the juvenile justice system or producing better outcomes for youth already involved in the system. Eleven such programs were recommended in the Center’s “Pathways to Success” report.
In 2008, a second grant from the Foundation allows us to evaluate the success of two of those programs – TeamChild and New Start Stay in School – in working with highly vulnerable youth facing cultural and language barriers. Partnering with TeamChild and New Start PathNet, the project expands school engagement services for Latino youth in Benton, Franklin and King Counties. The nonprofit TeamChild provides civil legal aid and support for at-risk and adjudicated youth. New Start PathNet is a collaborative community-based approach that focuses on education, job training and care management to prevent youth from dropping out of school.
The initial grant project in 2006 included gathering information about prevention and intervention programs that are evidence based or especially promising, suitable for expansion, or proven replicable. Then, the Center focused on which models are most effective for lowering recidivism and producing other positive life outcomes. Research also highlighted the common qualities of effective programs and the necessary factors for replicating them or sustaining them successfully. In addition, we advised the Foundation about programs that best serve specific populations, investment strategies for complementing existing juvenile justice initiatives, and opportunities for collaboration with public agencies and other funders.
The Foundation's Pacific Northwest Program will use these results to focus a portion of its Community Grant funds to support, expand and replicate successful models, as well as to engage other public funders to invest in these juvenile justice approaches. Through the Foundation's investment in proven and promising programs, its encouragement of collaboration, and its integration of evidence-based programs and best practices, young people in communities across Washington will have a greater chance to succeed in life.