Achieving positive outcomes for youth involved in the child welfare system can be challenging, as is achieving positive outcomes for youth who have been involved in delinquent behaviors. The challenges become even greater for youth who have been maltreated AND were convicted of a juvenile crime.
This group is commonly referred to as crossover youth and there are multiple ways to end up placed in this category:
- A youth currently under the care of DHHS becomes involved with the delinquency system at some level, either through delinquent behavior (a crime committed that is heard in juvenile court because the offender is a minor), or through a status offense (an offense that is classified as such because the offender is a minor, like skipping school or smoking cigarettes).
- A youth with a child welfare previous case becomes involved with the delinquency system.
- During the investigation into a delinquency case, a youth is referred to DHHS because some form of maltreatment is discovered (a youth caught stealing snacks is later revealed to not have eaten for the past few days due to neglect).
- A youth exits the delinquency system (usually from a residential facility like Kearney or Geneva) and then enters the child welfare system because (s)he has does not have a home to return to.
Facts about crossover youth
Under the current system, crossover youth:
- Are usually female (even though youth involved in the delinquency system are primarily male and both genders are represented fairly equally in the child welfare system)
- Are often in the child welfare system for longer periods of time and experience multiple out-of-home placements
- Represent between 9-29% of all youth in care (nationally)
- 85% of crossover youth have additional issues with mental health and substance abuse (with 36% struggling with BOTH)
In the long-term, when compared to the general population, these youth tend to show:
- Higher rates of substance abuse and mental illness
- Higher rate of repeat offending
- Higher rates of adult criminal activity
- Higher rates of parental involvement/perpetration of child maltreatment
What’s being done?
For the past year, Douglas County has been using the Crossover Youth Practice Model, which has effectively increased the use of diversion programs, reduced the number of youth entering child welfare and juvenile justice placements, reduced the instances of re-offending, increased the inclusion of youth and family voice in decision-making, increased the use of inter-agency information sharing, and improved positive bonds in the lives of crossover youth in 52 counties and larger cities, representing 19 states (including Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I’m from!).
Last Friday, Shay Bilchick of the Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, John Tuell of the MacArthur Foundation and representatives from the Office of Probation, DHHS and the courts shared insights from Douglas County’s journey with the implementation of the practice model with stakeholders from around the state. A key point that all of Douglas County’s stakeholders agreed upon was the importance of involving the education system early in the decision-making process to ensure that the youth does not suffer any lapses in education, should a new placement be required
We hope that the Douglas County model will continue to show favorable outcomes for this special population and that other Nebraska counties will begin to develop and implement their own models aimed at improving outcomes for crossover youth.