Research and Evaluation

Utah Youth Village is committed to research and evaluation.

Dr. Jacob Hess, PhD initiated extensive research on the long-term effects of Alpine Academy and examined specifically issues facing adolescent girls returning from residential treatment.

Based on what he found, our programs have been refined and further developed to increase the sustainability of girls’ progress. For a five-chapter review of some of our general findings to date, or our specific transition-home report, contact Rebecca Heal at 801-308-1053 or

We gather evaluations from our partners and the people we serve: the State Division of Child & Family Services (DCFS), probation officers, parents, teachers, referring therapists and our children. This past year, the average positive rating for Utah Youth Village services were 90% to 100% in all tested areas, including communication, effectiveness, and caring.

Another measure we use to evaluate progress is the widely accepted Youth Outcome Questionnaire (Y-OQ) developed by clinical professionals at Brigham Young University (Burlingame, Wells, & Lambert, 1996). On the Y-OQ scale, the average Y-OQ score of youth whose families participate in Families First will drop 27 points. A 13 point drop is statistically significant. Scores will typically fall from categories indicating the youth should be placed in residential treatment to scores that are typical of the normal range.

A major focus of our research has been Families First. The results of a five-year independent study on Families First, conducted by Dr. Robert Lewis, researcher for the Department of Human Services and Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah, reveals Families First creates positive, concrete changes in:
Parent effectiveness
Child/youth behavior
Concrete services and resources for the family

In addition, these changes were proven to be effective long after the intervention had ended. The research paper was published by Children & Youth Services Review in October 2004. The full text is available by calling Rebecca Heal at Utah Youth Village, (801) 272-9980. Or you can view the study online by clicking here.

Families First also participated in a 2007 randomized controlled study on suicide prevention by Doug Gray, MD. In this study, Families First was the primary treatment component, and it demonstrated a sustained effect at six months. (Gray, D., Dawson, K. L., Grey, T. C., & McMahon, W. M. (2011). The Utah Youth Suicide Study: Best practices for suicide prevention through the juvenile court system. Psychiatric Services, 62(12), 1416–1418).

A quasi-experimental study of Families First by Jacob Hess, PhD., indicated several sustained statistically significant effects at 12 months in child well-being and family function. (Hess, J. Z., Arner, W., Skyes, E., Price, A. G., & Tanana, M. (2012). Helping juvenile offenders on their own turf: Tracking the recidivism outcomes of a home-based intervention. OJDDP Journal of Juvenile Justice, 2(1)).

Each family who participates in Families First (parents and children, separately) evaluates the effectiveness of Families First through standardized questionnaires. Also, the Village collects data and information from the source of referral for each family, which may include case workers, school teachers, psychiatrists, probation officers, etc.