Local Leadership

The Reclaiming Futures Initiative is directed locally be a coalition of leaders from key agencies who will champion and guide the work, including use of data-driven decision-making. An effective team can be one of the most critical ingredients to successfully bringing about systems change.  

Infrastructure Development

Each area must ensure that they have a leadership team with the combination of skills, knowledge and interest in implementing the Reclaiming Futures model to improve the systems that serve juvenile justice youth with substance abuse and/or mental health needs.

The core team for Reclaiming Futures is comprised of five Fellowship roles. While at least one Fellow must be identified for each of these roles, depending on the local dynamics a site may need more than one Fellow to be a part of their change team or additional team roles.

Project Director – The Project Director Fellowship role is the person responsible for coordinating the local change team, ensuring that the team has leadership from key agencies that work effectively together to champion and guide the work utilizing data-driven decision-making. This person must see the big picture while also keeping track of the details, serve as an effective “boundary spanner” and have the capacity to engage others in shared leadership. 

Judicial Fellow – The Judicial Fellowship role is to utilize their unique capacity to mobilize the attention and support needed to create systems change.  The judge is not only able to directly influence the treatment youths receive, but can also promote change within the judicial system that could affect the way all youths are treated by the courts in the future. A Reclaiming Futures judge must have a strong commitment to convening, engaging and sustaining the entire community in the process.

Treatment Fellow – The Treatment Fellowship role is to represent the treatment community in its efforts to use effective evidence-based, developmentally and culturally relevant approaches in assessment and treatment of youth with substance abuse, mental health or co-occurring disorders. The treatment fellow must work together with justice and community in the system of care and encourage colleagues to do the same.

Juvenile Justice Fellow – The Juvenile Justice Fellowship role is critical as court counselors and chief court counselors supervise and guide a young person as they make their way through the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice Fellow helps ensure that youth are being screened with a valid, reliable tool at intake and to guide the development of a comprehensive service plan in collaboration with other service providers. 

Community Fellow – The Community Fellowship role is critical to helping the local change team mobilize the community to support a young person from initial contact, through treatment and juvenile justice plans, and provides ongoing supports for their transition to the community. This is a unique aspect of Reclaiming Futures and considered to be among the most important keys to success. Leaders from schools, faith-based organizations, businesses, families and civic groups advise each project on opportunities for youth in order to reach this goal.

Tips for Your Local Team

  • Identify key champions from your community to fill each of the Fellowship roles that have the ability to think both from their unique perspective as well as to look at the overall system of care for juvenile justice youth.
  • For large or multi-county districts, ensure your team has representation from all local communities that you are serving. For example, have at least one community fellow for each county in your initiative.
  • Consider representation from both treatment provider(s) and the Local Management Entity – Managed Care Organization for your area as they may bring different perspectives on how to bring about changes necessary to achieve More Treatment.  Better Treatment. Beyond Treatment. 
  • Establish a clear structure for how your local team will make decisions and how often you will meet. Be sure to establish this before you have to make any hard decisions. 
  • Think sustainability from day one!  Look for opportunities to institutionalize the changes you make into policy and procedures for your district(s) and for resources to support long-term implementation.
  • Communicate regularly with key stakeholders, including media, about your initiative and issues related to youth, substance abuse, mental health, positive youth development and youth-related crime. 


Effective communication and coordination among judges, court counselors, treatment providers, LME-MCO, youth-serving nonprofit agencies, schools and Departments of Social Services with regard to serving the needs of court-involved youth with substance and mental health issues is critical to meeting the needs of youth.