Delinquent & Antisocial Youth in Child Welfare

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18th May 2020 Social Work Reference this

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Introduction & Population of Interest

Juvenile delinquency has been a concern for people throughout societies both past and present. Moreover, evidence from scientific study has begun to reveal an increasingly clearer connection between various individual, family, and community level risk-factors, antisocial and delinquent behavior in youth, and later chronic adult crime (NRC, 2001; Pereira & Maia, 2017). Along this through-line, the risk of negative outcomes across various domains in adulthood begins to mount. As such, the concern over juvenile delinquency is not simply a criminal matter, but a social, economic, and public health consideration as well.

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 This paper will address a specific population of interest within the field of child welfare: delinquent and antisocial youth. The age group discussed will encompass the adolescent phase of childhood, being defined as age 12-17, and the types of behavior that will be referenced most frequently may include: criminal offending (e.g., shoplifting, vandalism, assault, etc.), physical aggression, truancy, and substance use. It should be noted that this paper will cast less focus on extremely violent youth such as ones that commit acts of homicide or violent sexual assault as these youth are less likely to be appropriate for the types of interventions discussed later in the ‘Evidence-based Practices’ section of this text. The term ‘delinquent’ will be used to refer to a youth who has engaged in behavior that would be considered criminal were it to be deliberated in the adult justice system.  Given that some of the aforementioned conduct problems may or may not involve illegal activity, the term ‘antisocial’ will also be used regularly to refer to youth who exhibit chronic, serious, or violent conduct problems.

Scope of the Problem

Delinquent and antisocial youth have been a subject of study for many decades. Generally speaking, youth who routinely display pervasive and dysfunctional behaviors of concern are often referred to simply as antisocial, deviant, or misbehaving. When it comes to more serious offenders, the term ‘delinquent’ has been used consistently across the literature to refer to criminally behaving youth ever since the juvenile justice system was established as distinct and separate from adult criminal justice (NRC, 2001). In the United States and Western societies overall, the age of adult criminal responsibility usually ranges between 16 and 18 years old (Pereira & Maia, 2017). There is an additional category of crimes that affects only youth which are referred to as status offenses. These are acts that are considered unlawful due to the age of the offender (e.g. curfew violations, running away, etc.) (NRC, 2001). Typically, the minimum age of adjudication for a juvenile delinquent in the United States is 10 years old (NRC, 2001).

 Getting accurate information regarding the number of antisocial and delinquent youth can be challenging due to several factors. All juvenile criminal offenders have by nature engaged in antisocial behavior but not all antisocial behavior is criminal. Therefore, attempting to complete a headcount of antisocial and behaviorally challenging youth inevitably focuses largely on delinquents, missing the nuanced forms of antisocial behavior that may never manifest criminally. There are multiple potential sources of data within juvenile crime research, each of which come with benefits and limitations. Nationally available data tends to exist in one of two forms: (1) self-report surveys where youth report their own involvement in crime either as an offender or a victim and (2) official records such as arrest data and court records (Williams, Tuthill, & Lio 2008). The picture provided by each of these sources differs unsurprisingly.

 Even so, it is possible to come to an imprecise understanding of the basic demographic characteristics of delinquent and antisocial youth. Previous research has shown that while both males and females engage in delinquent and antisocial behavior, males tend to be engaged in more serious and violent offenses as well as a greater number and frequency of offenses across all age groups (Huizinga, Weiher, Espiritu, & Esbensen, 2003).  Regarding age, research has found there is a predictable age curve for delinquent behavior where delinquency begins to rise in early adolescence, reaches a peak in late adolescence, and fades away throughout young adulthood (NRC, 2001; Huizinga et al., 2003). This trend has remained stable over time and across cultural contexts (NRC, 2001). Considering ethnicity, Huizinga et al. (2003) note that there are no discernible differences in the prevalence of delinquency between different ethnic groups throughout childhood. This begins to shift in adolescence due to greater numbers of minority (Black, Latinx, and other people of color [POC]) children being involved in ‘street offenses’ (Huizinga et al., 2003, p. 53). However, the authors go on to indicate that these rates of increase are modest and that serious or violent criminal acts remain the exception for juvenile offenders and not the norm. Additionally, it should be noted that there are evident considerations of systemic inequality, racial profiling, and bias that likely contribute to statistical findings that reflect increased criminality in these populations of youth and adults.

 There are a number of individual, family, and community-level risk factors that research has associated with antisocial behavior and delinquency. It should be noted that association, as presented by scientific research, is not the same thing as causation and as such should not be considered to be predictive. Although evidence-informed projections are important for things like allocating resources or policy creation, research has found that extrapolation of juvenile crime trends has been historically imprecise at best, and at times misleading and inaccurate (NRC, 2001). When considering the various elements associated with antisocial behavior and delinquency, the reader is cautioned to recognize them as commonly observed risk factors and not prophetic.

 Individual risk factors that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior are often understood in developmental terms. Deficits in areas such as executive functioning, sensitivity to social cues, and problem-solving skills have been associated with antisocial or aggressive behavior as has delayed linguistic development (NRC, 2001). As many children begin school and come into increased contact with other peers their age, most have established foundational communication skills and the ability to get what they want or solve problems without employing physical aggression. By contrast, those who are oppositional or show limited prosocial behaviors with peers are at an increased risk of experiencing peer rejection, performing poorly in school, and developing antisocial and delinquent behavioral patterns throughout childhood. Mental health diagnoses such as conduct disorder and ADHD have also been associated with elevated risk for developing antisocial or aggressive behavior (NRC, 2001).

 Family level factors that may contribute to the development of antisocial behavior and delinquency typically originate in family structure and functioning. For example, being raised in a single-parent household has been connected to an increased risk of delinquency in youth (NRC, 2001). When viewed in isolation, this relationship fails to account for broader community-level risk factors such as poverty that can play an additional role in youth development of antisocial or delinquent behavior. That said, single parents may struggle to provide consistent supervision or discipline for their children. Additionally, if the single parent structure has occurred due to parental divorce or separation it may be possible for the youth to develop an adverse relationship with one or both caregivers and for familial conflict to complicate healthy social-emotional development. In their seminal text on Multisystemic Therapy (MST), Henggeler and colleagues (2009) point to each of these as family level correlates of antisocial behavior in adolescents in addition to other fairly intuitive risk factors such as parental substance use, mental health concerns, or neglect (p. 8). Broader community-level risk factors may include the availability of weapons or drugs within the family neighborhood, routine violence in the community, and youth association with other substance-using or delinquent peers, amongst others (Henggeler et al., 2009; NRC, 2001).

 It was once the perspective of the broader research community that antisocial or delinquent behavior had little direct impact on an individual’s future beyond potential legal consequences. This perception has been revised in response to contemporary scientific studies of epidemiology, sociology, and child welfare. We now understand that physical aggression in youth can impact later parenting practices, that delinquent behavior impacts social and educational wellbeing, all of which contribute to patently poorer outcomes in adulthood (Krohn & Thornberry, 2003). In addition to this, continued study of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has helped us to develop a clearer understanding of the pervasive and generational consequences of childhood exposure to violence and other traumatic events. All of these considerations have implications for how we think about and address antisocial and delinquent behavior in youth.


 In the United States, a separate and distinct juvenile justice system has existed for well over 100 years. The manner in which this system functions has unsurprisingly shifted on many occasions in response to the research communities changing understanding of juvenile delinquency as well as to public perceptions and concerns over youthful offending (NRC, 2001; Williams, Tuthill, & Lio, 2008). The juvenile justice system, its policies and practices, and the research literature have long operated in tension between the competing goals of social welfare and social control (NRC, 2001). In many ways, our modern understanding and experience of the juvenile justice system is rooted in shifts that began in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

 It is important to note that the United States has many state and local juvenile justice systems, not one nationally unified vision for how to address youth crime and antisocial behavior (NRC, 2001). The original ambition for the creation of a juvenile justice approach was to divert young offenders away from the exacting punishments of adult criminal courts. Rehabilitation was considered a more viable option and a greater priority for youth. Alongside this public approach, there have been numerous treatments developed by social scientists to intervene and prevent juvenile delinquency and antisocial behavior from negatively impacting the lives of youth and their surrounding communities.

Henggeler et al. (2009) note that prior to the 1970’s, many of these treatments lacked robust empirical support and were too often focused on a narrow subset of risk factors known or thought to be associated with antisocial behavior and delinquency. Thus, outcomes for delinquent youth and trends in youthful offending (violent and non-violent) continued to fluctuate over time, reaching a peak in the early 1990’s and declining steadily into the 2000’s with a slight upturn into the 2010’s (Williams, Tuthill, & Lio, 2008).

Legislation & Policy

 Despite the precipitous increase in theoretically grounded and scientifically supported social interventions for delinquent and antisocial youth beginning in the 1970’s, high profile incidents of youth crime and a seemingly uncontrollable swell of violence through the 1980’s and early 1990’s profoundly shaped public perceptions and fears about juvenile delinquency in the United States. In response, many state legislators across the country overwhelmingly moved towards a stiffening of punitive approaches to young offenders.

Federal Legislation

 Though many of the policy changes that make up the current portrait of juvenile justice in the United States took place in the 1990’s or later, the most pertinent federal legislation regarding juvenile delinquency originated in the early 1970’s. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was originally signed into law in 1974 and was founded on four core mandates: (1) the deinstitutionalization of status offenses (i.e., not making status offenses eligible for detention sentences), (2) removal of adolescents from adult detention facilities, (3) ‘sight and sound’ separation of juvenile offenders from any facilities that house adult offenders, and (4) reducing racial and ethnic disproportionality in juvenile justice approaches (NRC, 2001; CJJ, n.d.). This act has been the foundation of a long-standing effort at maintaining the original spirit of the juvenile justice approach in the United States. By reducing or removing options that allow juvenile delinquents to be treated as adult offenders, the mandates of the JJDPA sought to ensure appropriate diversion of youth away from adult criminal proceedings and into preventative and rehabilitative practices. To this end, the JJDPA was most recently reauthorized in 2018 by broad, bipartisan support.

 Also in 2018, the federal government passed the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) intending to change the way Title IV-E funds can be spent by state governments and local governments. Through the FFPSA, states, territories, and tribes with an approved plan have the option to use Title IV-E funds for up to 12 months of ‘prevention services’ that would allow ‘candidates for foster care’ to stay in their homes with parents or relatives (NCSL, 2019). In order to be approved, prevention service plans must be trauma-informed and services need to be evidence-based. These evidence-based practices are approved by the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) and housed on the newly created Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse (

State Legislation

 Despite the intentions of federal legislation such as the JJDPA, many state and local jurisdictions moved towards a stiffening of punitive approaches to young offenders. Most often this was done by making it easier to transfer juveniles to adult court, changing sentencing structures, and modifying or removing traditional confidentiality provisions (NRC, 2001). For example, many states changed minimum and maximum ages of jurisdiction to more tightly define who could be considered ‘juvenile’ when it comes to matters of criminal responsibility. In many states, including Missouri, juvenile jurisdiction only applies through age 16. This means that any individual 17 or older who commits a criminal offense may be tried in adult criminal court. The maximum age of juvenile jurisdiction in Kansas is 17. A further example of this power expansion lies in the transfer mechanisms that allow judges to use their discretion to waive juvenile court jurisdiction in special cases such as serious offenses, having an extensive prior record with the juvenile court, and being near the maximum age limit. Juvenile judges have always had the capacity to waive jurisdiction in specific scenarios, however, beginning in the 1990’s, many states created provisions that greatly expanded judicial discretion for this purpose. Missouri and Kansas are amongst 42 other states and the District of Columbia which did so (NRC, 2001).

Local Policy

 Despite the roll-backs in juvenile protections at the state level, there are local strategies specific to the Kansas City metro area that provide opportunities to successful diversion of juveniles away from more formal courts. One such program is the Kansas City Youth Court, hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law in partnership with the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) and the Jackson County Family Court (“Family Court”). The Kansas City Youth Court acts as a diversion from the traditional juvenile justice system in the form of a ‘peer court.’ Delinquents can have their cases heard in youth court where they are represented, prosecuted, and judged by juveniles. The court is administered and overseen by adults who are present at hearings (UMKC, n.d.). Youth court programs also exist in other jurisdictions locally such as Lee’s Summit, Grandview, and Independence as well as Olathe, Johnson County, and Topeka in the state of Kansas (NAYC, n.d.).

Evidence-based Practices

 Every day, people in the United States seek help for youth who exhibit pervasive antisocial and delinquent behavior. While some rise to a level of severity that requires a significant juvenile justice response, many can benefit from participation in empirically supported prevention and/or treatment programs. Fulfilling the original intention of the juvenile justice approach, these practices are at their core an attempt to answer the apparent question: what works to change the course of antisocial and delinquent youth? Evidence-based practice, as a process and as a type of treatment model, exists as the integration of the best research evidence, clinical expertise, theoretical foundation, and client values (Bertram & Kerns, 2019; IOM, 2001). While there are now several evidence-based treatment models that have demonstrated efficacy in treating antisocial and delinquent youth, this text will focus on three of the most well supported and studied practices: Multisystemic Therapy (MST), Functional Family Therapy (FFT), and Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT). Each practice model will be presented through a brief overview of the program that also identifies the model’s target population, theory base(s), theory of change, and program goals. Outcomes from formative and relevant research studies will be briefly summarized and discussed. Additionally, this text will identify the program’s rating on two separate evidence-based practice databases: the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) and Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (Blueprints).

The CEBC uses a rating scale (1-5) to evaluate each practice model based on the available research evidence. A lower score indicates a greater level of research support with a rating of 1 or 2 indicating that the practice can be referred to as an ‘evidence-based treatment model,’ a rating of 3 indicating that the treatment model displays promising effectiveness, and a rating of 4 or 5 indicating that the treatment model is actively counterproductive or harmful and therefore should be avoided (CEBC, n.d.). Blueprints maintains a list of treatment models that are rated as either Promising, Model, or Model Plus. Promising models meet their minimum standards of certification which notably include the requirement of at least one randomized controlled trial (RCT) or two quasi‐experimental design (QED) evaluations. Model programs meet all of the same standards but have been subject to two RCT’s or one RCT and one QED. Model Plus programs have satisfied an additional standard of independent replication meaning that at least one high-quality study demonstrating desired outcomes has been conducted by a researcher who is neither a current or past member of the developer’s research team and who has no financial interest in the program (Blueprints, n.d.).

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

 Program Overview. MST is an intensive family and community-based treatment model for antisocial and delinquent youth between the ages 12-17 who display chronic, serious, and violent conduct problems and substance use (CEBC, 2018b; Henggeler et al., 2009). MST is grounded in social-ecological and systems theories. Interventions delivered through this model are grounded in a research-based, well-specified treatment approach that is supplemented by visual aids, practitioner supervision, and rigorous quality assurance/fidelity mechanisms (Henggeler et al., 2009). Two primary assumptions make up the MST theory of change: (1) that adolescent behaviors of concerns are driven by the interplay between risk factors associated with the multiple systems in which the youth lives and (2) that caregivers are typically the main conduit of behavioral change in youth. Holding these presumptions together, the primary aim of MST is to diminish or eliminate the prevalence of risk factors across multiple systems (i.e. family, school, community) so that behaviors of concern will diminish or be eliminated as well. This is ultimately accomplished by surrounding the youth and the family in a context of indigenous (i.e., extended family, neighbors, etc.)  support that encourages prosocial behavior (Henggeler et al., 2009). MST has achieved a level 1 rating through the CEBC and has achieved the status of a Model Plus program from Blueprints.

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 Program Outcomes. MST is one of the most extensively studied and well understood evidence-based treatment models for its target population. Since its development in the late 1970’s, it has been the subject of 25 published peer-reviewed evaluations, 22 of which have made use of randomized study designs. The developers of MST note that its spread to date is in part due to practitioner, family, and participant appreciation for the inherent connection between MST’s theory of change, procedural approach, and improved outcomes for youth and families (Henggeler, 2009). These outcomes have continuously supported both the clinical effectiveness of MST as a treatment model as well as its adaptability and success when implemented with fidelity in a variety of contexts and settings.

Henggeler, Melton, & Smith (1992) conducted a randomized trial comparing MST delivered in a community mental health setting with treatment as usual for 84 juvenile offenders and their families. MST treated youth had fewer arrests, self-reported offenses, and spent fewer weeks incarcerated on average sustained across a 5-year follow up. Families in the MST condition also reported increased family cohesion and decreased youth aggression in peer relations.

Borduin and colleagues (1995) examined the long-term effects of MST compared to individual therapy for the prevention of criminal behavior among 176 juvenile offenders. Results showed that MST was more effective than individual therapy in improving key family dynamics that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior. Further, results from 4-year follow up found that MST was more effective in preventing future criminal behavior.

Timmons-Mitchell and colleagues (2006) examined the effectiveness of MST in a community mental health setting compared to treatment as usual for 93 juvenile delinquent youth and their families. Notably, this was the first independently replicated clinical trial of MST with juvenile offenders, meaning it was conducted without any direct oversight by the model developers. Results showed a reduction in rearrest rates and improvement in 4 domains of functioning measured by the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) for youth who received MST.

Ogden & Halliday-Boykins (2004) conducted a randomized clinical trial to determine if the effectiveness of MST could be replicated in Norway for antisocial youth. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either MST or treatment as usual. MST was found to be more effective at reducing youth internalizing and externalizing behaviors and out-of-home placements, as well as increasing prosocial behavior and family satisfaction. This was the first study of MST conducted outside of the United States and an additional example of an independently replicated study. The findings of this study went a long way towards establishing the generalizability of MST beyond the United States.

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

 Program Overview. FFT is a family intervention program for antisocial and delinquent youth between the ages 11-18 who display disruptive, externalizing problems such as physical aggression and substance use. It has been implemented with youth and their families in various cultural contexts over the course of the last several decades (CEBC, 2018a, Sexton & Alexander, 2000). Similar to MST, FFT is grounded in a strengths-based, system theory approach that is carried out in a multiphase, goal-directed, and systematic program that is supplemented by training, supervision, and quality assurance/fidelity mechanisms (Sexton & Alexander, 2000). This systematic approach is characterized by three intervention phases: Engagement and Motivation, Behavior Change, and Generalization. These phases not only provide the framework for FFT’s intervention process but also reflect its assumption that increasing parental competencies, supportive communication, and family-wide protective factors develop the family’s capacity to solve current and future problems. Similar to MST, FFT presumes that caregivers and the overall family unit are likely to be the primary conduit of change in youth behavior (Sexton & Alexander, 2000). FFT has achieved a level 2 rating through the CEBC and has achieved the status of a Model program from Blueprints.

 Program Outcomes. Alexander & Parsons (1973) conducted an initial evaluation of the efficacy of FFT. Results showed that 46 families who completed the program demonstrated significant changes in three family interaction measures at the end of therapy and reduced recidivism rates when compared to 82 other families who received different forms of family therapy or no treatment at all. This study was an early affirmation that a clear description of intervention techniques informed by the FFT theory of change showed clear promise for antisocial and delinquent youth and their families. Klein, Alexander, & Parsons (1977) conducted a randomized control trial examining the effectiveness of FFT compared to three other treatment approaches for 86 juvenile delinquents and their families. Results showed that FFT families displayed a significant reduction in recidivism in the form of court referrals for youth.

Hartnett and colleagues (2016) conducted a systematic review of 14 studies containing comparisons between FFT and another treatment condition for antisocial or delinquent youth and their families, 11 of which were randomized control trials. Though results provided overall support for the effectiveness of FFT when compared with other treatment methods, it also highlighted the need for more well-defined comparison studies to further reinforce the evidence base for FFT.

One such study would be Gottfredson and colleagues (2018) who conducted a randomized control trial to assess the use of FFT as accommodated for use with gang-involved or gang at-risk youth. Uniquely, this study also aimed to assess the viability and possible benefits of implementing FFT through Medicaid funding, as the model was accommodated for use with low-income families. Results showed that a higher number of treatment subjects were able to receive services and the cost per youth served was lower for treatment subjects as well. Additionally, more youth from the comparison group were placed in residential treatment than FFT-involved youth. This study provides valuable support for the use of FFT with antisocial or delinquent youth, especially those whose families are low-income, as these families often display a higher number of common risk factors associated with further development of delinquency and adult criminal behavior. Implementing FFT with fidelity through a public funding source such as Medicaid displayed noteworthy cost savings due to avoiding more costly services and the expected future savings due to reduction in out-of-home placements and service recidivism.


Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

Program Overview. BSFT is a brief intervention used to treat adolescent drug use and other conduct problems common to antisocial and delinquent youth  (CEBC, 2017). It has been used as both a prevention and intervention strategy and has been implemented with Latinx, Black, and White families (BSFT, n.d.). Of further note, BSFT was initially designed to be used specifically with Cuban immigrant families in Miami, FL (Szapocznik, Schwartz, Muir, & Brown, 2012, p. 135) before being tested in other demographic and geographic contexts. BSFT is firmly rooted in family systems theory (CEBC, 2017) while it also reflects the value-basis of familial connectedness that was observed to be a focal priority in this local immigrant population for which it was initially developed (Szapocznik et al., 2012, p. 135).

BSFT considers youth behaviors of concern to be rooted in maladaptive family interactions, inappropriate or irregular familial boundaries, and parental attitudes that view the youth or one individual as solely responsible for family problems. As such, BSFT operates from the presumption that changing how a family system functions will diminish or eliminate the behaviors of concern in the youth while also improving the overall family system functioning (theory of change). This focus on how interactions occur emphasizes identifying familial interaction patterns and changing those that enable or encourage problematic behaviors of concern (BSFT, n.d.). This conviction is also reflected in the ‘three core principles’ of BSFT: (a) that the model is a family systems approach, (b) that patterns of family interactions influence the behavior of each family system member, and (c) that interventions should be present-focused and targeted at the problematic behaviors of concern in each family member (Szapocznik et al., 2012, p. 136). BSFT has achieved a level 2 rating through the CEBC but has failed to meet the more rigorous minimum standards for Blueprints.

 Program Outcomes. The BSFT model has been evaluated in a number of randomized clinical trials that address both its effectiveness as a model and its implementation in various community settings.

Szapocznik and colleagues (1989) conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing BSFT with individual psychodynamic therapy or a recreational control condition with Cuban boys age 6-11 who displayed behavioral and emotional dysfunction. Results showed that both BSFT and individual psychotherapy were equally effective when compared to the control condition in reducing children’s behavioral and emotional concerns for at least 12 months post-treatment. Additionally, at 1-year follow-up, BSFT was associated with meaningful improvements in independently rated family functioning while individual psychotherapy was associated with a deterioration in family functioning.

Santisteban and colleagues (2003) evaluated the efficacy of BSFT compared to group treatment with antisocial and substance using Latinx youth and their families. Results showed that BSFT families showed significantly greater pre/post-intervention improvement in parent reports of behavioral problems and delinquency, adolescent self-reports of substance use, and ratings of family functioning.

Robbins et al. (2011) extended the scope of previous efficacy research by conducting a multiethnic, multisite randomized clinical trial comparing BSFT to treatment as usual in community-based adolescent outpatient substance use programs. Results showed no significant differences between conditions for youth self-reports of substance use, though the average number of days of self-reported substance use was higher for treatment as usual youth. This may have been the case because BSFT was shown to be more effective in engaging and retaining family members in treatment and in improving parent reports of overall family functioning.

Readers will note that these results are modest in comparison to earlier effectiveness research for BSFT. This has been the case in further implementation studies which have revealed common challenges and barriers that BSFT, and many treatment programs like it, has faced when attempting to implement the treatment protocol in broader community settings (Szapocznik et al., 2015; Lebensohn‐Chialvo, Rohrbaugh, & Hasler, 2018). As a result, the model developers also developed the BSFT Implementation Model which employs a systemic approach analogous to that of the program’s intervention elements and activities to work directly with whole agencies and organizations on achieving successful implementation (Szapocznik et al., 2015). Moreover, this implementation model dovetails quite nicely with the recommendations that have grown out of advances in implementation science. It is likely that greater success in implementing BSFT with fidelity in real-world community settings would increase its status on the aforementioned evidence-based practice registries.


This text addressed a specific population of interest within the field of child welfare: delinquent and antisocial youth. Evidence from scientific research has begun to draw clear lines of connection between individual, family, and community-level risk factors, antisocial and delinquent behavior in youth, and later chronic adult crime; all of which elevate the risk of negative outcomes across various domains in adulthood. Despite the fact that youth crime trends peaked in the early 1990’s, many state legislators across the country overwhelmingly moved towards a stiffening of punitive approaches to young offenders in response to public pressure. However, recent shifts in policy and understanding of best practice in child welfare have led to an increasing emphasis on evidence-based practices for treating youth and families and preventing their need for clinical treatments altogether. Evidence-based practice models such as MST, FFT, and BSFT are three among a growing number of well-studied, theoretically grounded treatment models that are designed to help antisocial, delinquent, and substance-using youth and their families.


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