Youth Focus Groups - Request for Proposals

March 2024

Description: The ACLU of Ohio, Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and the Children’s Law Center, Cleveland-based team, are collaborative partners in a Cuyahoga County Youth Justice Action Plan. Part of this effort includes bringing youth voice into Northeast Ohio’s justice narrative through conducting a series of focus groups. Our topline goal is to humanize the understanding of all kids as kids. Specifically, we seek to reduce harmful rhetoric that threatens to increase ineffective, tough on crime policies, and uplift impacted youth perspective and voice in this space. While this youth perspective will inform our immediate and ongoing advocacy efforts, eventually, we plan to develop communications strategies for a public safety narrative effort that humanizes and encourages transformation of local practices and approaches to youth justice.

Key Qualifications & Methods: The Independent Contractor must have a track record of designing and conducting focus groups, analyzing and presenting this information. The Independent Contractor must have clear experience working with youth, especially Black and Brown youth, impacted by the criminal legal system.

Project Overview: We seek to gain youth perspective on the safety & justice narrative in Cuyahoga County.

Ideally, we would like to gain insights from five different focus group audiences for a total of no less than 50-70 system-impacted individuals:

  1. Youth currently detained / incarcerated in a state or local facility;
  2. Youth recently released from the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, a DYS facility or are currently under formal court monitoring;
  3. Youth who live in key zipcodes (see red zones on map at p. 41:
  4. Young adults (ages 18-25) who were formally juvenile court system-involved
  5. Adults in key zipcodes who are system impacted (e.g., Those who were themselves in the juvenile justice system, have/had kids in the juvenile justice system, or reside in one of the most impacted zipcodes, etc. (see 3 above)).

To ensure useful data, we would like to keep focus groups to small sessions of 5-8 people, with multiple sessions per audience.

We are interested in learning the individual responses and key themes from questions like:

  • Do you feel safe in your community?
  • What does “safety” mean to you?  
  • What makes you feel safe?
  • Tell us about where you live – how would you describe your community?
    • How do you define your community?
  • What have you seen/heard about crime?
    • Where have you heard it?
    • How does this make you feel?
    • What are adults/ the media/ stakeholders getting wrong on safety?
  • What do you want people to know about you?
  • What do you think adults don't understand about kids your age? Kids like you?
  • If you could make one change in your community what would it be?
  • Describe what a healthy, fun, safe Cleveland looks like to you.  
  • What do you think is needed to help you feel good in your community?
  • How could the community better support you?  
  • What resources do you wish your community offered?


  • The Independent Contractor shall develop a robust youth focus group plan and fully administer the focus groups.
  • The Independent Contractor shall provide:
    • Focus group protocols, including consent and other forms, with input from this team;
    • Access to raw/ open-ended responses, with aggregate demographics;
    • Summary analysis/ memo which highlights key themes from focus groups, with illustrative quotes, and recommends next steps to support a narrative shift; and
    • Follow up discussions to review focus group feedback.

Budget: The total budget for this project, including focus group participant compensation, food, travel, and any other overhead costs, shall not exceed $40,000. We cannot consider proposals that exceed our maximum budget.

Expectations and Deliverables: The Independent Contractor shall produce monthly written progress reports on work accomplished on the first of each month or schedule a meeting to share progress with representatives of the ACLU of Ohio, Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and the Children’s Law Center, Cleveland-based team.

Key Dates and Deadlines:
Proposal submissions must be received on or before May 10, 2024. The work engagement shall commence no later than July 1, 2024 and shall terminate upon completion of the work product described above, but no later than November 15, 2024.

Email a current resume and proposal with project qualifications to Successful candidates shall provide evidence of previous work product similar in scope and methods to this project.