In the 1980s, juvenile justice systems in the United States began adopting more punitive, adult-oriented approaches to juvenile justice. Since 1996, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (the Foundation) has been working to correct these trends through grant making activities supporting research, program innovation, and systems and policy change. To work effectively in a complex juvenile justice landscape, the Foundation has used multiple reform approaches suitable for a range of state and local conditions.

In 2004, the Foundation launched the ten-year, $100 million Models for Change (MfC) initiative designed to “stimulate, support and sustain juvenile justice system reform aimed at accelerating progress toward a more fair, effective, and developmentally appropriate response to young people that are in conflict with the law.” Active in four core states (Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Illinois, and Washington) and 12 additional states involved in MfC action networks, the initiative accomplished important reforms at multiple levels including developing local innovations, improving state systems, and making juvenile justice reform a priority.

To capitalize on this reform momentum, in 2011 the Foundation launched a five-year Legacy Phase of grant making to broaden its efforts into a national campaign designed to generate “a new wave of reform” across the country. Through these efforts, the Foundation hoped to exit from its portfolio of juvenile justice work, leaving a legacy of a self-sustaining national movement of juvenile justice reform. Specifically, the Legacy Phase aimed to sustain and secure the reform efforts in the four core MfC states; spread reform beyond the MfC states through a national campaign to reform state juvenile justice systems; provide ongoing technical assistance through a Resource Center Partnership of four national resource centers and engagement of “Strategic Ally” organizations and professional associations; move the national policy agenda forward through collaboration with federal and national level organizations; and raise the “priority and urgency of juvenile justice reform” through a broad-based communications strategy.

Community Science has been engaged by the Foundation to conduct a range of evaluation activities to assess the outcomes and impact of its Legacy Phase activities. The evaluation employs a mixed-methods approach that involves a survey of representatives from grantee organizations, partners, and recipients of services or capacity building and semi-structured interviews with representatives from grantee organizations and other key informants. The Evaluation Team is also conducting an extensive review of documents produced as part of the Models for Change and Legacy Phase activities.