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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Step Up for court-involved youth

Juvenile Justice
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated February 2019.
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Step Up is a domestic violence counseling program for youth who are violent and abusive with parents, guardians, or other family members. The program begins with an assessment of the level of violence and the risk of harm in the family. Then, families collaborate and develop a safety plan to ensure the protection of the family and the youth. Step Up uses a cognitive therapy model and tools from the Duluth model to teach youth to recognize and diffuse aggressive behavior. Parents are taught the cognitive therapy model as a method to reflect on their responses to their youth’s violent behavior and to learn strategies to cope with aggressive or violent outbursts. The program typically includes 21 weeks of group counseling for youth and a concurrent support and education group for parents.

In the studies in this analysis, participants were youth with a court-identified domestic violence issue. Both of the included studies evaluated programs in Washington State. Of the studies that report demographic information, 30% of participants were people of color and 33% were female. All participants in the treatment and comparison groups received treatment-as-usual, which included case management and referrals to other community-based programs.

Key Terms

Court-involved youth: Youth who are processed through the juvenile justice system but who are not ordered to a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility. This includes populations of arrested youth, diverted youth, charged youth, adjudicated youth, and youth on probation or formal supervision.

Youth in state institutions: Youth who are confined in a residential or correctional facility when they participate in the program.

Youth post-release: Youth who are returning to the community following a period of confinement in a residential or correctional facility and who participate in the program after release to the community.

For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $7,086 Benefits minus costs $26,059
Participants $1,303 Benefit to cost ratio $17.77
Others $16,780 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $2,444 benefits greater than the costs 82%
Total benefits $27,613
Net program cost ($1,554)
Benefits minus cost $26,059

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
16 2 146 -0.270 0.271 17 -0.270 0.271 25 -0.270 0.318
16 2 146 -0.257 0.346 17 n/a n/a n/a -0.257 0.458
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $6,585 $0 $16,005 $3,292 $25,883
Labor market earnings associated with high school graduation $645 $1,520 $839 $0 $3,004
Costs of higher education ($143) ($217) ($65) ($72) ($497)
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($777) ($777)
Totals $7,086 $1,303 $16,780 $2,444 $27,613
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $1,370 2018 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($1,554)
Comparison costs $0 2018 Cost range (+ or -) 10%
The per-participant cost for Step Up reflects the costs beyond treatment as usual (e.g., costs above typical case management and program referrals). The annual per-participant cost estimate is the average total cost per family in Washington State, provided by L. Anderson (personal communication, March 22, 2019). This cost reflects King County’s Step Up program enrollment and assumes two ongoing groups of 10 families, with 40 families served annually. The cost includes 20 sessions of Step Up, training for facilitators, annual observation and evaluations of facilitators by Step Up consultants, and costs associated with quality assurance.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Gilman, A., & Walker, S. (2019). Evaluating the effects of an adolescent family violence intervention program on recidivism among court-involved youth. (Unpublished manuscript)

Organizational Research Services. (2005). King County Step-up Program Evaluation. Seattle, Washington.