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Champion for Change Patricia Torbet

Dec 1, 2010, Pennsylvania, Models for Change

Senior Research Associate

National Center for Juvenile Justice

Read the complete 2010 Champions for Change program.


When a small group of juvenile justice leaders met to dream up Models for Change, Pat Torbet was at the table. When Pennsylvania was chosen as the first Models for Change core state and local leaders had to figure out how to make it work, Pat Torbet was on the job. In fact, for more than 30 years she has been on the front lines of helping juvenile justice systems do a better job of meeting the needs of all young people.

“Pat’s advocacy is spoken through the language of research,” said Patricia Campie, Director, National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) where Pat has worked since 1977. “But, many of the  innovative practices she has advocated are now so ingrained in the system that they have become commonplace among the front-line staff serving youth across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Pat stumbled into a career in juvenile justice while a graduate school student. A project led her to the then fledgling NCJJ offices where she surveyed all 51 juvenile justice systems in the US, gaining a valuable national perspective which ignited a passion for solving problems keeping kids from being served more effectively.

Pat stayed at NCJJ, became a Senior Research Associate, and in 2005 co-authored the original Models for Change Framework that was used to launch the initiative in Pennsylvania. Once launched, Pat continued driving the initiative forward with her expertise, timely reports and valuable technical assistance.

A notable example of Pat’s work is Probation Case Management Essentials for Youth in Placement (2008), a seminal report that aims to change the way youth are assessed, monitored, and supported throughout the aftercare process, from adjudication to re-entry. This work continues to influence aftercare practice in Pennsylvania and has recently been adapted for use in Lucas County, Ohio. In 2002, Pat led a national team of juvenile justice professionals to revise and update the Desktop Guide to Good Probation Practice, a nationally disseminated collection of best practices for effective juvenile probation.

“Pat’s influence comes not only from what she knows, but from who she is, what she does, and how she does it,” said Robert Schwartz, Executive Director, Juvenile Law Center. “She is brilliant and modest, highly collaborative, and attentive to concerns of everyone in the Pennsylvania system, from county staff to statewide policy makers. Pat is one of the most knowledgeable researchers in the country, and she is acutely in tune with how research affects policy and practice.”

A nationally recognized expert on probation practices, Pat’s contributions have resulted in Pennsylvania becoming a national leader in aftercare practices for youth in placement. Her passion, dedication, and relentless efforts to advance juvenile justice reform through the provision of research and technical assistance stretch well beyond her home state and Models for Change.

“For her entire career, Pat has shown passionate and visionary leadership dedicated to making  things better for kids involved with the juvenile justice system, in Pennsylvania and across the nation,” said Campie.

The juvenile justice community honors the life and work of Patricia Torbet, Dec. 7, 1951 - Sept. 23, 2011.

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.

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