Common Problems, Common Solutions

Looking Across Sectors at Strategies for
Supporting Rural Youth and Families


The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University is a partner in the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States (CCAS), funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. Part of CCAS’ work includes supporting stakeholders in building their capacity to serve youth involved with (or at risk of entering) juvenile justice systems in rural areas.
In order to further this work, CJJR, on behalf of CCAS, gathered useful information on the barriers rural communities face in preventing juvenile justice involvement, and in achieving the best outcomes for youth and families who do become justice-involved. We also asked stakeholders about the strategies they are currently using to serve youth and families in rural communities. (For this project, CJJR defined rural as under 50,000 per county or 100/square mile. We also included examples and ideas states considered to be rural or frontier under their own definitions.)
Many of the common barriers identified involve services beyond the juvenile justice system or are barriers that are common to rural areas generally, rather than specific to juvenile justice. Given those findings, CCAS decided to look at solutions to rural barriers from other sectors, with an ultimate goal of determining how those solutions could be adapted for use by juvenile justice systems, and by community-based organizations working to prevent youth from becoming involved with the justice system. CJJR is uniquely well-positioned to undertake this analysis as our core work includes a strong focus on cross- system collaboration. In addition to the potential for adaptation, many of the solutions below could prevent justice system involvement, for example, by ensuring youth in rural areas receive appropriate behavioral health treatment or services to overcome homelessness before unmet needs lead to illegal behaviors. In some cases, juvenile justice agencies and other stakeholders across the country are already undertaking efforts in line with the strategies described; those examples are shared throughout this toolkit. Every community will find that different approaches will work well for them, according to local needs, resources, and contexts. The potential solutions shared here are examples of strategies to consider, based on successful efforts in rural communities across the country.

Information Sources and Methodology

The focus for this toolkit was developed based on information shared by rural communities who have participated in past CJJR programming, state Juvenile Justice Specialists, State Advisory Group members, and members of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, as well as other juvenile justice stakeholders. CJJR research assistants also reviewed numerous publicly available Title II plans from states with large rural populations to identify programming specific to rural communities. CCAS invited stakeholders from all states (i.e., Juvenile Justice Specialists and State Advisory Group Chairs) to listening sessions. Information requests were also shared by e-mail with stakeholders from across the country through CJJR’s database of past programming participants. The states that participated in the listening sessions and/or responded to the information request were: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont. The authors then had additional follow up conversations with those identified as having solutions and strategies that were relevant to the issues discussed in this toolkit; additional information about that work is shared below. Strategies and solutions used by other fields to serve youth and families in rural communities were found in publicly available reports, webinars, and websites.


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