You are here: American University School of Public Affairs Justice Initiatives Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts

Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts

Girl looking through fence

Modeled after adult drug treatment courts, Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts (JDTCs) are specially designed court dockets for youth with substance use disorders who at are medium to high risk for reoffending. JDTCs provide youth with specialized treatment and services. Rooted in family engagement, JDTCs help substance-misusing youth, many of whom have associated mental health disorders, cease drug use and receive the needed educational, social, and emotional support to become productive, law-abiding adults.  

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Guidelines for Juvenile Drug Treatment Courts  

On December 20, 2016, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released "Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines." Juvenile drug treatment courts (JDTCs) are designed for youth with substance use disorders who come in contact with the juvenile justice system. These courts offer a way to respond to the needs of substance-using youth and to treat their complex disorders, which require specialized interventions.  

The JDTC guidelines offer courts, families, and youth an evidence-based, treatment-orientation approach that emphasizes family engagement and addresses the substance use and often co-occurring mental health disorders experienced by many adolescents engaged with the justice system. 

Currently operating JDTCs will find the guidelines useful for developing strategies for reforming current practices to bring them in line with evidence-based practices. New JDTCs will find the guidelines helpful in designing their JDTC model and practices. The guidelines, an interactive map that helps users navigate through each guideline, supporting research reports, and additional resources are available here.

OJJDP partnered with a research team, experts in the field, and other Federal Agencies to develop evidence-based, treatment-oriented guidelines to support judges and professional court staff, youth with substance use disorders, and their families. OJJDP is also planning to help courts implement and test these guidelines through training, technical assistance, and programmatic initiatives.