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  1. Adolescent Diversion Project (Michigan State University)

Adolescent Diversion Project (Michigan State University)

Program Goals
The Adolescent Diversion Project (ADP) is a strengths-based, university-led program that diverts arrested youth from formal processing in the juvenile justice system and provides them with community-based services. Based upon a combination of theoretical perspectives, the goal of the ADP is to prevent future delinquency by strengthening youth’s attachment to family and other prosocial individuals, increasing youth’s access to resources in the community, and keeping youth from potentially stigmatizing social contexts (such as the juvenile justice system).

The program began in 1976, through a collaboration among Michigan State University, personnel from the Ingham County (Mich.) Juvenile Court, and members of the community in response to a rise in juvenile crime and the need for cost-saving alternatives to the formal processing of juveniles.

Program Theory
The conceptual framework of the ADP involves three theoretical perspectives: social control and bonding, social learning, and social-interactionist theories. Social control theory emphasizes the importance of social bonds in preventing delinquent behavior (Hirschi 1969). Social learning theory suggests that delinquency is learned through interactions with family, peers, and others (Aker 1990). Finally, social-interactionist theory suggests that it is the labeling of behavior as delinquent that results in further social interactions that intentionally or unintentionally label youth as delinquent (Shur 1973).

Key Personnel
The ADP is run by the Psychology Department at Michigan State University. Undergraduate psychology students participate in a two-semester course in which they receive training in diversion work and carry out 8 hours per week of community-based structured mentoring. The student volunteers are trained for 8 weeks in specific behavioral intervention techniques and advocacy, followed by 18 weeks of intensive supervision while they work with juveniles referred by the Intake Division of the Ingham County Juvenile Court.

Program Components
The ADP focuses on creating an alternative to juvenile court processing within a strengths-based, advocacy framework. During the 18-week intervention, the caseworkers (i.e., student volunteers) spend 6–8 hours per week with the juveniles in their home, school, and community. The caseworkers work one-on-one with juveniles in order to provide them with services tailored to their specific needs. Caseworkers focus on improving juveniles’ skills in several areas, including family relationships, school issues, employment, and free-time activities. For example, caseworkers teach youth about resources available in the community so that juveniles can access these resources on their own once the program is over.

The first 12 weeks of services are called the active phase, and case workers spend time each week with juveniles while providing direct assistance in behavioral contracting and advocacy efforts. During the last four weeks of services, called the follow-up phase, case workers spend a little less time each week assisting juveniles in those same areas, but their role is that of a consultant, preparing juveniles to use the techniques and strategies they’ve learned following the end of the program.

Intervention ID
332
Ages

13 to 15

Rating
Effective
Outcomes

Study 1
Self-Reported Delinquency
Davidson and colleagues (1987) found there were no significant differences between any of the treatment conditions and the control conditions on measures of self-reported delinquency.

Official Delinquency
There were significant differences in rates of official delinquency, as measured by court petitions. The summed recidivism rate of the action condition (AC, which is based upon the Adolescent Diversion Project [ADP] model), relationship condition (RC), and action condition-family focus (ACFF) groups were significantly lower than the summed recidivism rate of the attention placebo control (APC), action condition-court setting (ACCS), and control condition (CC) groups. The summed recidivism rate of the AC, RC, and ACFF groups was also significantly lower when compared with the CC group.

In addition, when examined individually, the AC group had a significantly lower recidivism rate compared with the CC group. The RC group also had a significantly lower recidivism rate compared with the CC group. Although the ACFF group had a lower recidivism rate than the CC group, the difference was not statistically significant. Overall, the results suggest that juveniles assigned to conditions that used a specific treatment model (AC, RC, and ACFF) did better than juveniles formally processed through the system.

Study 2
Self-Reported Delinquency
Similar to the previous study, Smith and colleagues (2004) found there was no significant differences in self-reported delinquency among youth who were diverted with services (ADP), youth who were diverted without services (warn and release), and youth who received treatment-as-usual (juvenile justice processing).

Official Delinquency
There were significant differences in rates of official delinquency. At the 1-year follow-up, diverted youth who received services through ADP had a 22 percent recidivism rate, compared to a 32 percent recidivism rate for diverted youth who received no services and a 34 percent recidivism rate for youth who went through traditional court processing.

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