Models for Change promotes no single blueprint for change, but rather multiple models of successful juvenile justice reforms that can be adapted and replicated in other systems. The initiative's reforms, however, are all rooted in a set of unifying principles which must characterize any model system:
All system participants—that is, all those who have a right to expect justice, including youth, families, victims, and communities—deserve fair treatment.
A juvenile justice system must account for the fact that youth are fundamentally and developmentally different from adults.
Juvenile justice decision makers must acknowledge and respond to young peoples' differences from one another in terms of development, culture, gender, needs and strengths.
Youth have strengths and are capable of positive growth.
Communities and individuals deserve to be and to feel safe.
Youth must be encouraged to accept responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. Communities have an obligation to safeguard the welfare of children and youth, to support them when in need, and to help them to grow into adults. The juvenile justice system should reflect that it is a vital part of society’s collective exercise of its responsibility toward youth.