Assessing the Enhanced Ranch Program of the Santa Clara County Probation Department

In 2006, the Santa Clara County Probation Department (SCCPD) changed its approach to serving youth in two of its juvenile justice programs–the William F. James Boys’ Ranch and the Muriel Wright Center. The overarching objectives of the change were to provide specific therapeutic services to youth and families while maintaining a commitment to public safety. The new cognitive-behavioral model marks a vastly different structure and philosophy, patterned after the evidence-based program developed by the Missouri Division of Youth Services. The new model, entitled the Enhanced Ranch Program, targets youth heavily entrenched in the juvenile justice system and emphasizes positive, peer-based group interactions and a holistic approach to developing individual case plans. Specially trained teams of staff work with small groups of youth offenders. Teams function as therapeutic units that share the daily activities of life with youth and focus on their critical thinking, personal development, and group processes. The Enhanced Ranch Program serves high-risk, high- need youth with gang affiliations, substance abuse issues, and significant criminal histories. This model was designed to improve outcomes for youth with extensive criminal histories by ensuring that they receive the most appropriate and purposeful services. The primary focus is to help youth internalize healthy behavior that will help them succeed. In November, 2008, Santa Clara County Chief Probation Officer Sheila Mitchell, commissioned NCCD to evaluate the implementation of the Enhanced Ranch Program. In large part, this report presents the findings of a process evaluation–an analysis of the specific structure and practice instituted by the County. It also presents some preliminary outcomes for youth.