Case Study: Louisiana
An Assessment of Service Needs for Louisiana's Troubled Youth: Lafayette Parish and Vicinity
This project was completed by Evidence-Based Associates (EBA) in 2007.
Over the past decade, the state of Louisiana's Office of Youth Development (OYD) has demonstrated tremendous leadership on the national stage through its reform efforts - namely, by reducing the number of youth incarcerated in the state's juvenile secure and non-secure care facilities and in reducing associated costs to taxpayers for these expensive and often ineffective services. In partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, however, OYD has set its sights on becoming not only an agency that successfully reduces its census of incarcerated youth but also one that is truly a 'model for change' for the rest of the nation.
The state's plan to do this included the development of community-based, family-focused, and evidence-based programs, where at-risk and troubled youth and their families can realize the ultimate goal of the juvenile justice agency - rehabilitation of troubled youth, collaboration with their families, and partnership with local communities in helping these youth return to a life of productivity and personal achievement.
At the same time, leaders within OYD face budgetary challenges wherein costs for secure-care programs have risen substantially on a per-bed basis even though the number of beds overall has declined dramatically, resulting in overall costs that remain largely unchanged. OYD has made an initial investment in home-based programs in the state but these investments need to be supported and replicated statewide. If the agency commits funding to evidence-based programs in the near future, it can be expected that their successful implementation will lead to fewer at-risk youth, who will require out-of-home placement, thus reducing the state's costs for incarcerating youth and making it possible to reinvest those cost savings into early intervention and prevention services in the local communities. Such services not only improve outcomes for families and are less expensive than out-of-home placements, but also make communities safer by reducing recidivism and improving monitoring and supervision locally.
The purpose of this needs assessment was to support OYD in assessing the status of community-, family-, and evidence-based treatment services available for youth in one OYD service region, identifying gaps in available services, including strategies for identification of appropriate youth, and recommending evidence-based assessment and treatment practices that would be appropriate to the developmental and service needs of youth in that region, as a model for the rest of the state. The scope of this assessment included OYD Service Region V but excluded the 16th Judicial District due to coverage of that district by a pre-existing MacArthur "Models for Change" scope of service agreement. Region V was selected by OYD for this assessment due to the high rates of youth being placed in out-of-home (i.e., secure and non-secure care) settings as compared to expected rates based on population estimates.
This needs assessment was conducted in partnership with OYD leaders within Region V and surrounding communities. Strategies utilized to assess system needs included: site visits with local leaders in juvenile justice and community-based service providers; review of state mental health and juvenile justice reports; attendance at, and participation in, local planning board meetings; administration of standardized surveys of practices and attitudes about services; and focus group discussions with front-line probation staff.
After interviewing more than 130 local and state professionals involved with the legal process, treatment, and care of these youth, significant strengths but also considerable gaps in the current assessment and services array in this region of Louisiana were found, as follows:
Based on these results, it was recommended that the Office of Youth Development: