Girls Only Active Learning (GOAL) is a NIDA-funded girl-specific adaptation of Aggression Replacement Training (ART) aimed at preventing delinquent behavior, recidivism, and substance use in girls aged 13-17 who are involved in or at risk of involvement in the justice system. GOAL combines girl-specific development and needs with evidence-based effective approaches for recidivism reduction and is designed to work within juvenile court operations. Specifically, GOAL is based on a cognitive-behavioral model of emotion and thought regulation, problem-solving, coping skills, and moral reasoning used by other CBT-based interventions for offenders and focuses on building and sustaining prosocial relationships and future goals.
GOAL was created in response to a growing concern that: (1) the number of girls within the juvenile justice system was growing; (2) existing girl-specific programs in juvenile courts were not reducing re-offending ; and (3) that enrolling girls in ART was not best practice for meeting girls’ needs. This is because the trajectory and needs of female youth in the juvenile justice system differ from those of male youth with respect to the types of offenses that bring girls into the system and the varying mental health needs of girls compared to boys.
In response to these concerns, a team led by Dr. Sarah Walker was formed with the aim of creating GOAL. The development team included university/research and court-based staff, including the Washington State quality assurance manager for court programs, 6 juvenile probation officers, and 2 contracted juvenile court counselors. The intervention was developed and pilot tested in close collaboration with court and community agencies from Benton, Franklin, King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, and Yakima counties. The pilot test results demonstrated: (1) acceptability and feasibility of GOAL within court operations; (2) positive perceptions of GOAL curricula to girls and their families; and (3) early signals of effectiveness in preventing substance use and delinquency.
The GOAL team is currently in the process of acquiring and assessing 12-month court data for the pilot study as well as obtaining funding for a larger study with the statistical power to assess outcomes and mechanisms of change.