Program Development

Drug testing is an important step in identifying and intervening with substance-abusing youth.2 To be effective, an appropriate planning process should precede implementation of a drug-testing program. All drug testing should be followed by interventions.

Agencies and communities differ, so it is not realistic to assume a universal program of drug testing could be developed and applied. The projects reviewed in this Summary performed urinalysis on youth both before and after adjudication. This resulted in some significant differences in how the programs were implemented and how the results of testing were used. Several important considerations in designing programs to identify and intervene with substance-abusing youth are described on the following pages. For additional information, please consult the references and suggested readings that appear later in this Summary.

Assessment of needs and resources

Any new program should be based on identified needs of the community, the agency, and the youth and families to be served. The objective of the needs and resources assessment is to gain a clear sense of the demonstrated and perceived need for a program and to understand the obstacles and opportunities the program might encounter. Methods of assessment include:

  • Assembling existing data.
  • Reviewing records.
  • Administering surveys and questionnaires.
  • Engaging in interviews and informal communications.

To obtain unbiased information, the needs and resources assessment should:

  • Elicit an array of viewpoints from respondents with varied backgrounds.
  • Consult impartial sources of information.
  • Collect a broad range of information.
  • Welcome both anticipated outcomes and unanticipated findings.

It is important to collect data on needs and resources from both agency and community sources. Some areas to be investigated include the magnitude of the problem of alcohol and other drug abuse; social and financial costs of substance abuse and delinquency; community and professional attitudes toward alcohol and other drugs, delinquency, and drug screening; and resources required and available to support a drug identification and intervention program.

2 Information for this section is taken from the following sources unless otherwise documented: American Correctional Association, Prototype Drug Testing Program for Juvenile Detainees, Laurel, MD: American Correctional Association, 1991: American Correctional Association and Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., Final Report, Laurel, MD: American Correctional Association, 1994; American Probation and Parole Association, Drug Testing Guidelines and Practices for Juvenile Probation and Parole Agencies, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1992; and A.H. Crowe and P.J. Schaefer Identifying and Intervening With Drug-Involved Youth, Lexington, KY: American Probation and Parole Association, 1992.

Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System May 1998