Evaluation of the Department of Youth Services’ YES Initiative

By the Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development CERES Institute for Children and Youth

The Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) is engaging the CERES Institute for Children & Youth (CERES) to understand why and how youth engage in the Youth Engaged in Services (YES) initiative, determine the initiative’s impact on recidivism, and identify areas for improvement, which will be used by DYS for strategic planning and future funding decisions. Through an analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data, this evaluation will offer insights into how well the initiative’s components have been implemented and analyze the extent to which the initiative has changed the life trajectory of youth in the care and custody of DYS.

About the YES Initiative
In 2014, the Department of Youth Services (the Department) initiated a voluntary service option for youth in its custody who were preparing to transition back into their communities. Today, every youth in DYS care is offered a voluntary service option as they approach discharge, the YES Initiative. Through this initiative, the Department continues to provide support to young adults during the riskiest period for recidivism – the first six months post-discharge. Young people discharging from DYS are offered continued case management and other transitional supports such as housing, clinical services, continued education, and/or job training in exchange for their voluntary agreement to abide by the terms and conditions of the YES agreement. These supports are intended to assist young adults transitioning to adulthood. Youth who initially decline YES services have a 90-day window post-discharge to change their minds and enroll in the initiative.

The YES Initiative has shown promise. In Calendar Year 2019, 62% of youth discharging from DYS opted into the initiative and spent an average of nine months receiving the voluntary services. Based on these indications of success, DYS has engaged CERES Institute with the purpose of evaluating if involvement in the program leads to better life outcomes for the young people it is designed to serve. This evaluation will also lead understand ways to improve the uptake of supports provided to young people.

CERES’ Approach
CERES Institute is working with the DYS Research Team to develop and implement an evaluation plan for the YES Initiative. The results of the evaluation will be used to inform continuous improvements as well as contribute to the current body of published work in the field of juvenile justice research.

The YES Initiative evaluation will explore the following core questions:

  1. What are the attributes of young people who engage with the YES Initiative?
  2. What role do relationships with DYS staff play in a young person’s decision to engage with the YES Initiative?
  3. What are the outcomes for young people who engage with the YES Initiative and why do they attain those outcomes?

Current Initiatives