Blog: Crossover Youth

Educational Needs of System-Involved Youth

I am pleased to share with you the second edition of “Addressing the Unmet Educational Needs of Children and Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems.” Due to the popularity of the first edition, CJJR is re-releasing this publication with updated material. The updates include references to guides that the National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk (NDTAC), which is housed at the American Institutes for Research, has developed to elaborate upon the principles this paper presents. Since the time this paper was originally released, two guides have been published:

These guides draw on both general research and on the experiences of the NDTAC authors to provide concrete strategies for adopting this paper’s principles and practices and achieving the type of comprehensive education system the authors describe. Both of these guides are described in the epilogue of this paper.

Real-World Solutions for Crossover Youth: Coordinating Care in Practice and Policy

Georgetown Public Policy Reveiw's Executive Interview Editor Josh Caplan recently talked with Shay Bilchik—founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute—about at-risk youth, the criminal justice system, and options for reform.
If you’d like more information about this topic and other youth issues, please be sure to attend GPPI’s annual LEAD Conference, “Positive Outcomes for At-Risk Children and Youth: Improving Lives Through Practice and System Reform.”
Georgetown Public Policy Review: What is the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), and what is your primary focus?
Shay Bilchik: The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University (CJJR), established in 2007, advances a balanced, multi-systems approach to reducing juvenile delinquency that promotes positive child and youth development, while also holding youth accountable. Housed at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, the Center is in a unique position to provide strong and sustained national leadership in identifying and highlighting the research on policies and practices that work best to reduce delinquency and achieve better outcomes for this nation’s children.
A particular focus of the Center’s work is on youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also known as “crossover youth.” As Center Director, I work closely with Georgetown’s other policy centers, faculty, and departments in leading the Center’s efforts.
GPPR: What are “crossover youth”?

Mentoring Can Set Foster Youth on a Path Toward Success (and Away from Juvenile Justice System)

“My future is to have a happy family, have a career, be something in life, be a role model, and teach people the right thing.” These are the aspirations of one ninth grade foster youth at the Arise Academy Charter High School. Unfortunately, for too many youth in foster care, without the necessary guidance and support from committed and caring adults, dreams often fade into a harsh and bitter struggle for survival. Nationally, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care annually and their surrogate parents—state child welfare systems—try to prepare youth with the essential knowledge, skills, supports and social networks to navigate the challenges of adulthood. But the state hasn’t proved to be a very nurturing parent and social workers can only do so much. Foster youth need adults in their lives, outside of the system, who will listen, share their time, care and experiences, and show and connect them to alternative pathways that heighten their chances to have productive and hopeful adult lives.
Study after study focuses on the dire life outcomes that foster youth tend to experience when they leave care. Facing chronic unemployment, low levels of academic achievement, poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early pregnancy and parenting is enough to make you think these are throwaway youth—too difficult to help. A recent report reinforces the challenge by demonstrating that older youth in foster care are at greatest risk for disconnection—neither in school, vocational training nor the workforce. Without the network of friends, family and caring adults that most youth outside the system enjoy, how can the social skills needed to succeed be developed? Who can provide them with the emotional, psychological, financial, and other supports, necessary to sustain a connection with mainstream economic and educational opportunities? These are questions that I deal with daily at the Stoneleigh Foundation. But I also can’t accept that abused and neglected youth, who have experienced multiple traumatic experiences in their lives, need be subjected to a long life of struggle as an adult—menial jobs, teen parenting, unstable housing, cash assistance? It’s immoral, and these children deserve the most that our community has to offer them. Every day I wake up knowing that something must and can be done.

Crossover Youth: Intersection of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

Crossover youth is more than the latest buzzword in the often jargon-filled lexicon of juvenile justice. Instead, the term reflects a growing understanding of the dynamic between child abuse, neglect and delinquency. This population of young people has contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Addressing child welfare is challenging enough, let alone when joined with deeper problems of delinquency. Abused young people often carry scars of trauma and pain, which can inform delinquent behavior that leads to subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. However, the complex challenges and needs of crossover youth often prove too much for each system alone to address. Practitioners must find a reasonable solution that ameliorates these issues or crossover youth may re-enter the child welfare system or go on to commit more serious offenses. Instead, an integrated approach, which builds on each system’s unique strength, is the ideal approach.
Who are these young people?

Most Popular Juvenile Justice Blog Posts | October 2012

Did you miss some of our blog posts last month? Not to worry - here's a round-up of our most popular posts from October 2012.
10. [NEW REPORT] Community Solutions for Youth in Trouble
Over the past few years, Texas has shifted youth rehabilitation from large state-run facilities to smaller community programs. And they're seeing great results.
9. October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
Last month, over 20 states are holding events to raise awareness about youth justice issues and the juvenile justice system.
8. 7 Core Principles to Change the Course of Youth Justice
A new article from the New York Law School Law Review examines problems with the juvenile justice system and offers solutions for a more productive youth justice system.
7. NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic 
Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, young people in North Carolina partnered with police officers and community members to create a short movie against bullying.

Experts Offer Strategies for Preventing Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Crossover

“We knew the pathway existed,” Shay Bilchick said during the opening of Preventing Youth from Crossing Over Between the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems, a webinar held recently by the National Training & Technical Assistance Center, a program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
As a prosecutor working the family court circuits in Florida, Bilchik — now the founder and director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute — noted an apparent connection between child abuse and neglect and delinquency cases, referring to such crossover youth as a “challenging” population.
Shortly after Bilchik joined the Public Policy Institute in 2007, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Casey Family Programs worked together to create the Crossover Youth Practice Model. This model stems from the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Integration Breakthrough Series Collaborative, developed in the mid-1990s by the Associates in Process Improvement, Casey Family Programs and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
According to Bilchik, certain methods, policies and practices can “interrupt the trajectory” of crossover between child welfare and juvenile justices systems. Serving as the webinar’s moderator, he introduced three speakers with extensive experience in “crossover prevention.”

Rethinking Juvenile Justice: Promoting the Health and Well-Being of Crossover Youth

There are many reasons to be concerned about systemic failures that impede the promotion of healthy lifestyles for youth growing up in America’s economically challenged communities. Among the most notable are diminished academic institutions, lack of access to quality health care, limited exposure to the world of work, and trauma-induced behavioral and physical health effects associated with victimization and exposure to violence. And concerned we should be, as a growing body of research provides compelling evidence that these experiences persist far beyond adolescence.
As research linking childhood and youth experiences to adult health status has evolved, two subpopulations—youth in child welfare and juvenile justice systems—have become the primary focus of policy and practice reform. Recent research, however, suggests we may be paying too little attention to a third and perhaps more vulnerable group—youth with histories in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Increasingly referred to as “crossover youth,” a recent path-setting report funded by the Conrad Hilton Foundation found “membership in the crossover group to be a strong and consistent predictor of less desirable [adult] outcomes,” including heavy use of public services, high likelihood of criminal justice involvement, lower educational attainment, and extremely high use of outpatient mental health treatment (Culhane et al. 2011).

The Causes, Correlates and Pathways of Multi-System Youth

On July 26, 2012, I attended the OJJDP and NTTAC webinar on the causes, correlates and pathways of multi-system youth. This was the first webinar in a series on improving outcomes for multi-system involved youth who cross over between child welfare and juvenile justice.

The following take-aways are from the first portion, presented by Dr. Denise Herz:

  • Two of the most important predictors for crossing into delinquency are the number of referrals to the child welfare system and experiencing abuse persistently from early childhood into adolescence.
  • Often youth will have a previous but not current child welfare case at the time of delinquency. If youth in the juvenile justice system are found to have a prior child welfare referral, it is important to revisit the child welfare case and to ensure that there is not current maltreatment.
  • Risk factors for delinquency for those in the child welfare system include placement instability and the absence of pro-social bonds. Living in a group home has been found to increase the likelihood of delinquency compared to other types of placements.
  • Child welfare and juvenile justice can’t do this alone. They need strong support and partnerships with behavioral health treatment and education. In particular, engaging and stabilizing youth in an educational placement can provide long-term improvements.

These are my take-aways from the portion presented by John Tuell: