how the state responds to youthful offending. The following discussion seeks to capture key
lessons of the Illinois Models for Change experience in hopes that they may be useful to those
who, in the future, may take up the challenge of “bending the curve” in the direction of a fairer
and more effective justice system.
A. Create a Critical Mass
As Illinois observed the centennial of the world’s first juvenile court in 1999, there was
little doubt that the state’s juvenile justice system had strayed from the ideals that had animated
the original juvenile court movement.
79 A climate of mistrust prevailed among system stakeholders
after a bruising fight between proponents of a “get tough” approach to juvenile crime and those
who advocated for strengthening the existing juvenile justice system.
80 State leadership was weak
and uncoordinated, existing improvement efforts were siloed, data systems were antiquated, and
there was little understanding of the deep end of the system. Nonetheless, even prior to Models for
Change there were individuals and organizations working on juvenile justice reform in Illinois.81
Their activities brought about important changes to the state’s juvenile justice landscape and also
influenced the Foundation’s decision to name Illinois as a core Models for Change state.
these efforts lacked, however, was a reform locus around which to build a comprehensive juvenile
justice change agenda. By designating a single entity to oversee reform efforts and by identifying
and supporting a small number of state and local grantees, Models for Change was able to pull
together the various strands of work already taking place around the state and create a platform
from which to launch new systemic reform initiatives.
A key Models for Change strategy for building an ever-widening network of public and
private partners was to facilitate knowledge and relationship-building through cross-communication and collaboration.
83 The opportunity for stakeholders to work together around a
set of shared objectives was especially important given the fact that what is typically referred to as
the juvenile justice “system” is in reality a collection of many individuals and entities, often with
differing perspectives, responsibilities and resources. The Models for Change initiative employed
a variety of approaches for bringing these diverse groups together, including holding a One
Hundred Leaders’ Summit, joining forces with other entities to sponsor statewide conferences that
featured national and local presenters, publishing and distributing materials highlighting the work
and accomplishment of Models for Change grantees and others, mobilizing grassroots campaigns
for legislative change, and creating linkages among local jurisdictions confronting similar
84 Models for Change partners also engaged in public education efforts, providing state
79 See Ralph A. Gabric, Band-Aids Won’t Cure The Juvenile Justice System, 85 Ill. B. J. 156 (1997) (decrying the rise
in juvenile crime and Cook County’s overburdened juvenile court and citing the need for better and more coordinated
services for system-involved youth).
80 See Alma Tolliver, Juvenile Justice on the Brink of Another Failed Reform: Where Do We Go From Here?, 24 S.
ILL. U. L. J. 569, 577–85, 590 (2000) (citing to 1998 amendments to the Illinois Juvenile Court Act that increased the
punitive orientation of Illinois’ juvenile justice system and calling for a greater emphasis on delinquency prevention).
81 See, e.g., Thomas F. Geraghty, The Children & Family Justice Center’s 20th Anniversary: Splendid
Accomplishments and a Wonderful Future, 6 N.W. J. L. & SOC. POL’Y 402, 405-08 (2011) (describing successful
efforts on the part of juvenile justice advocates to reform the Cook County Juvenile Court).
82 See MODELS FOR CHANGE, supra note 18 and accompanying text.
83 See GRIFFIN supra note 17, at 12 (noting that the key Illinois strategies for promoting reform included “research,
public education and advocacy, leadership development and support for collaboration, training, and local planning