From risk assessment to risk management: Matching interventions to adolescent offenders' strengths and vulnerabilities
Though considerable research has examined the validity of risk assessment tools in predicting adverse outcomes in justice-involved adolescents, the extent to which risk assessments are translated into risk management strategies and, importantly, the association between this link and adverse outcomes has gone largely unexamined. To address these shortcomings, the Risk–Need–Responsivity (RNR) model was used to examine associations between identified strengths and vulnerabilities, interventions, and institutional outcomes for justice-involved youth. Data were collected from risk assessments completed using the Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability: Adolescent Version (START:AV) for 120 adolescent offenders (96 boys and 24 girls). Interventions and outcomes were extracted from institutional records. Mixed evidence of adherence to RNR principles was found. Accordant to the risk principle, adolescent offenders judged to have more strengths had more strength-based interventions in their service plans, though adolescent offenders with more vulnerabilities did not have more interventions targeting their vulnerabilities. With respect to the need and responsivity principles, vulnerabilities and strengths identified as particularly relevant to the individual youth's risk of adverse outcomes were addressed in the service plans about half and a quarter of the time, respectively. Greater adherence to the risk and need principles was found to predict significantly the likelihood of externalizing outcomes. Findings suggest some gaps between risk assessment and risk management and highlight the potential usefulness of strength-based approaches to intervention.