evidence-based programs. In this formulation, it is not simply a question of whether a program did what it said it would do and if it worked in reducing reoffending. Instead, data about program operations is used to apply a quality improvement model to help programs move toward consistent use of practices that have been shown to improve performance across a range of programs. As stated above, careful reviews of meta-analysis results as well as reviews of the organizational features of successful interventions have identified general principles that increase the likelihood of putting a program into place that works with serious adolescent offenders (Lipsey et al., 2010). In general, programs are more likely to have a positive impact when (a) they focus on high-risk offenders (Lowenkamp and Latessa, 2005c), (b) connect sound risk/need assessment with the treatment approach taken (Schwalbe, 2008), (c) use a clearly specified intervention program rooted in a theory of how adolescents change and tailored to the particular offender (Andrews et al., 1990; Barnoski, 2004), (d) demonstrate program integrity (Gendreau, 1996), and (e) take into account the community context (Altschuler and Armstrong, 1994). Operationalizing and measuring how well organizations or locales follow the principles of effective practice is an important challenge, one that is critical to actually changing what happens to adolescents in the system.
Assessments of how well these principles guide practice can be done across the full spectrum of juvenile justice services. A variety of methods have been devised for determining how well institutional or community-based programs adhere to a theoretical model, focus on high-risk offenders, or demonstrate program integrity. It is equally important, however, to develop and apply sound principles of effective programming for probation practice, particularly surrounding the reentry process. The emphasis on probation practices during reentry seems particularly important in light of the potential benefits of increasing family involvement during this critical transition. Probation officers are in a pivotal position for increasing family involvement to promote positive community adjustment; identifying and promoting effective practices to achieve this potential is a pressing challenge for practitioners and researchers. Although a large proportion of juvenile offenders have repeated contact with probation officers, the development and testing of sound practice in this area is relatively undeveloped (Schwalbe and Maschi, 2009).
There is some reason to be optimistic about taking on the challenge of monitoring the principles of effective practice. Researchers in other areas of clinical practice (Donabedian, 1988; Berwick, 1989; Chowanec, 1994; Counte and Meurer, 2001; Heinemann, Fisher, and Gershon, 2006) have shown that principles of effective programming can be rated regularly, and settings can work toward improving their adherence to best practices as time goes on. Efforts along this line have begun in juvenile justice (Lipsey et al., 2010).