“Girls get judged too much—it’s OK for guys to get into trouble because they’re guys, but not for girls; this is not fair.”
“The system didn’t realize that the whole family was scared and didn’t understand what was happening.”
“There are not enough adequately trained people to effectively deal with child abuse and neglect issues. As a society, we don’t do a good job of treating these issues; we don’t do a good job of treating the whole being.”
This small sampling of comments represents what justice system-involved girls, their parents, and staff, respectively, shared during listening sessions held nationwide by the National Girls Institute (NGI). The purpose of the listening sessions was to assess the current training, technical assistance, and informational needs of state, tribal, and local entities serving girls who are justice-involved or at risk of involvement as well as their families.
A report detailing the results and implications of the listening sessions, “Voices From the Field: Findings From the NGI Listening Sessions,” was recently released by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). An executive summary of the report is also available.
In 2011, 64 listening sessions and 16 small-group interviews were held throughout the United States with three groups of key stakeholders: girls involved in the justice system or at risk of involvement, parents/caregivers, and staff and volunteers across the continuum of services. A total of 607 individuals—313 girls, 251 staff, and 43 parents—shared their insights about the issues facing girls. They also provided recommendations for improving the response through training, technical assistance, better resources, and changes to policies and practices.
Several themes emerged across the three stakeholder groups. These include:
- The need for effective, supportive communication between girls and parents as well as girls and staff;
- An emphasis on peer learning opportunities;
- Using gender-responsive strategies when working with girls;
- Recognizing differences among girls, particularly regarding issues of gender expectations, sexuality, and identity; and
- Increasing collaboration across fields including juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health in order to improve outcomes for girls.
The report also sets forth a series of recommendations for NGI, OJJDP, other federal agencies, and the field. Recommendations, which were developed from the listening sessions’ key themes, include:
- Increasing opportunities for information sharing and collaboration;
- Involving girls and parents/caregivers in conversations, research, and theory building about what works for girls; and
- Incorporating content and methods that surfaced in the listening sessions into the gender-responsive training and technical assistance NGI provides nationwide.
NGI is a research-based training and resource clearinghouse designed to advance understanding of girls’ issues and improve program and system responses to girls in the juvenile justice system. With federal funding, NCCD directs NGI through a cooperative agreement with the OJJDP.
“Through NGI, we’re able to translate research to practice for the stakeholders who are committed to improving outcomes for girls,” said Lawanda Ravoira, director of NCCD’s Center for Girls and Young Women. “The NGI listening sessions provided an unprecedented opportunity to involve stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and locations in sharing their experiences and needs.”
Vanessa Patino Lydia is a senior researcher with NCCD. Her research interests focus on the juvenile justice system’s response to girls and minority youth, policy development, organizational assessment, and capacity building. She is particularly interested in bridging the gap between research and practice. Since joining NCCD in 2001, Vanessa has provided research support or project management for various state and national projects resulting in NCCD publications.
Since the launch of NCCD’s newest division, the Center for Girls and Young Women in 2008, Vanessa has been leading the research and development efforts to affect systemic change for justice-involved girls. She developed the center’s gender-responsive program assessment protocol and assisted with development of the gender-specific version of NCCD’s Juvenile Assessment and Intervention System (JAIS). From 2008–2010, she served as project manager of the PACE Center for Girls’ evaluability assessment and documentation of their gender-responsive model. She has co-authored numerous briefs and position statements on critical issues facing justice-involved girls for the center.
Debra Illingworth Greene joined NCCD in 2011 as editor. Prior to this, she spent 22 years working in the magazine industry, both as an editor and a freelance writer. Debra now uses her editing experience to ensure that all NCCD documents, from one-page memos to 150-page policy and procedures manuals to this website, are concisely written, error-free, and match the NCCD Style Guide. Debra received her B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.
Updated: March 21 2018