As of 2019, the Evidence-based Nebraska project (EB-Nebraska) has been funded for four years. Sometimes, in the excitement to analyze data and generate reports, as researchers, we forget to take a step back and relish in the process that got us here. We also thought it would be important to document this process in an effort to inform other jurisdictions thinking of developing a statewide evaluation such as this. Furthermore, we hope that by better understanding the process behind EB-Nebraska, the reader may leave with a stronger appreciation for the work that the State of Nebraska is doing for Nebraska’s young people. Now that four years have passed, we thought it ripe to examine EB-Nebraska with a wide angle lens. The aim of this report is twofold: First, we summarize EB-Nebraska, including the process for classifying programs into program types, building the Juvenile Case Management System (JCMS), training program staff on common definitions and entering data, and the ongoing process of improving the quality of data entered. Second, we examine the trajectory of youth who were served by Community-based Aid (CBA) funded programs in the first year of the project (FY 15/16); specifically, whether they moved deeper into the juvenile or adult criminal system by being filed on in court, having an intake at probation, or being admitted to a secure or staff secure detention facility (Neb.Rev. Stat. § 43-2404.02(b). Although we have accomplished several things over the past four years, there is still room for growth. As any large project that includes the three branches of government and a university might, EB-Nebraska has experienced both triumphs and challenges. While the ultimate goal is to determine “what works” in juvenile justice programming, there are methodological and data reasons that can limit conclusions. The gold standard for evaluating “what works” is an experiment where youth are randomly assigned to receive an intervention or not. This can be a difficult methodology to implement within juvenile justice because random assignment can feel unfair to those not receiving the intervention (or visa versa). To overcome this challenge, researchers are urged to collect information about the youth and program to control for any factors (e.g., juvenile’s risk level, demographics, program specifics) that may influence outcomes and then report any limitations. While there are limitations to the data and research design, there is no doubt that EB-Nebraska has contributed to improvements for young people in Nebraska despite challenges. Using our wide angle lens, in the last four years the Nebraska Crime Commission (NCC) and the Juvenile Justice Institute (JJI) have created a secure online data entry system (i.e., JCMS) that captures variables based on scientific research literature for 24 program types and approximately 50,000 youth served by CBA-funded programs. From this data, JJI has generated four annual reports, several program-specific evaluations (e.g., diversion, truancy, mentoring, alternatives to detention programs, school resource officers), as well as specific research question-based reports (e.g., diversion drug testing policies and outcomes, reliability and validity of assessment tools, approaches for retaining and recruiting higher risk youth, and evidence-based principles for promotion/prevention programs).
Wasserburger, Erin; Wylie, Lindsey; Hobbs, Anne M.; Woodman, Marcus; and Juvenile Justice Institute, University of Nebraska at Omaha, "Annual Report 2019: Triumphs and Challenges of the Evidence-based Nebraska Project and Examining Youth Served by Community-based Aid Programs Funded in FY 15/16" (2019). Reports. 35.
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