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This site was archived January 1, 2018 and is no longer updated.


Washington was selected as the fourth Models for Change state for its use of evidence-based interventions, its application of program evaluation and cost-benefit analysis techniques to juvenile justice policy-making, its progress in combating disproportionate minority contact, and its work to integrate juvenile justice programs with child welfare and mental health services.

Models for Change leaders worked to transform the juvenile justice system by focusing on expanding alternatives to formal processing and secure confinement, primarily focusing on status offenders, reducing racial and ethnic disparities, and improving the way the system identifies and responds to youth with mental health needs.

In addition to these strategic areas of reform, Models for Change supported reforms aimed at enhancing the quality of legal representation in delinquency cases and improving overall coordination among youth-serving systems.

Selected reform innovations

  • Re-engaged youth in school and reducing unnecessary detention with truancy laws through a partnership that surveyed local schools and then built best-practices. Read more.
  • Enhanced the cultural competence of evidence-based treatment programs by creating a specialized Functional Family Therapy (FFT) caseload with an African-American FFT provider. Read more.
  • Reduced unnecessary referrals to juvenile court by using mental health screening protocols. Read more. 

Legacy updates

  • Data is now regularly collected on racial and ethnic disparities and shared with courts who are actively using the data to make practice and policy choices. In King County, for instance, data showed great disparity among kids of color being detained for domestic violence led to introduction of detention alternatives and the immediate availability of services to their families.
  • Early assessments using the WARNS (developed under Models for Change) or similar tool is required in truancy proceedings as is the use of community truancy boards prior to a court hearing – significantly reducing the number of youth coming to court and increasing the number and timeliness of youth getting back into school.
  • Workforce training on mental health and trauma issues is in place statewide. Youth are being assessed at earlier parts of the proceeding since they now have protection from use of any information disclosed during the screening/assessment at trial, and a new statutory diversion opportunity is available through MOU’s between local law enforcement and community-based treatment providers.
  • Following the Governor’s Executive Order establishing a Blue Ribbon Commission to assess the delivery of services to children and families, a new Department of Children, Youth and Families has been created. Child welfare, early learning, and juvenile justice agencies will be merged into a single agency charged to use evidence-based and data-driven policies and practices.
  • The Office of Public Defense has made permanent the juvenile justice position once funded through Models for Change and has recently added a second position. Trainings are conducted on a statewide basis annually and work has begun on standards of practice.

Publications and tools

Washington's Models for Change work was coordinated by Center for Children & Youth Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing justice for and enhancing the lives of children and youth through juvenile justice, child welfare, and related systems reform in Washington state. 

Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.