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Juvenile Justice: A Year in Review

Posted by MST Services

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With a government shutdown and an incoming change in House leadership, the first few days of January have many wondering what will top this new Congress’ agenda in 2019. For those in the child welfare and criminal justice space, 2018 saw many welcome state-level reforms— this year, North Carolina and New York will no longer prosecute youth under age 18 in adult courts, and California won’t try juveniles under age 12. But 2018 was also a promising one on the national stage— following recent bipartisan support for the First Step Act and increases in federal juvenile justice funding, there are signs that our incoming government will continue to champion criminal justice reform this year. But before we explore where 2019 may take us, let’s look back on the major changes in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems that 2018 brought.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Foster Care Children and Unstable Education

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_41512058At just one year old, Noel Anaya was separated from her parents and removed from her home in California. Though she was too young to remember leaving her first home, she remembers all the ones that came after— Noel moved through foster placement after foster placement, put in four different families by the time she was eight. Soon, she was sent outside of California, first to Michigan and then to Idaho. “Some foster families were religious and encouraged me to participate in their traditions, which felt strange,” Noel remembers. “I moved around so much, I never felt like I fit in.” Noel’s experience of constant movement, adjustment and loneliness isn’t merely her own— for many foster children across the country, impermanence is a comfortless reality. And what is one of the most critical, long-term effects of these constant new foster placements? A child’s ability to succeed in school.

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Topics: Child Welfare

Kinship Care May Reduce the Negatives of Foster Care

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_7099980Foster care is a sad reality for 437,465 children. As of 2016, nearly half a million kids are living in foster care away from their parents. These numbers are growing each year, but a different approach is being taken to help keep children out of foster care.

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Topics: Child Welfare

Youth Crime Rates Drop, But Progress is Still Needed

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_149652378Over the last twenty years, the United States has seen a steady drop in crime rates, including in juvenile crime. From the peak offense era of the 1990s to today, juvenile crime arrests have dropped across the board in leaps and bounds. Robbery and aggravated assault rates have both dropped by 70% since the 1990s, simple assaults are down by 49%, and murder rates have fallen a staggering 82%. The continuously falling crime rates are not necessarily attributable to any one particular action or policy, however, which leads to some debate among activists and lawmakers over which policies are making the biggest differences to help with this issue. There are a few contributing factors, however, that do show significant impact upon juvenile crime rate reduction.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Shortages Affect a Juvenile's Right to Counsel

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_112275718At a Georgia Walmart in the fall of 2013, 17-year-old W.M. did something not entirely unusual for someone his age: he shoplifted a $2.97 set of Halloween vampire fangs. Unlike most shoplifters, however, W.M. was caught and arrested. He appeared in juvenile court just a few weeks later, but at the time no public defenders were available to represent him. The judge gave W.M. a choice: he could waive his right to counsel and move forward to finish the case, or he could come back at a later date when a public defender might be available.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Trends in Juvenile Crime

Posted by MST Services

active-activity-board-1246961In the early 1990s, rising national crime rates provoked a change in the general public’s opinion of the people committing the crimes. Juvenile offenders in particular were represented as “vicious superpredators”, fueling the perception of juveniles as increasingly unpredictable, and of the juvenile penal system as being inadequate.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

What's the Average Juvenile Offender Like?

Posted by MST Services

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Over the course of the last twenty or so years, there has been much discussion focused on the causes of juvenile crime. Studies have been conducted, people have been surveyed, facilities have been inspected, and it has all lead to at least one solid conclusion: there is no one condition that leads a juvenile to committing a crime. Instead, researchers have found that a myriad risk factors increase a juvenile’s likelihood of offending. When a juvenile possesses several of these risk factors, they interact to multiply the chances of a juvenile committing a crime. The risk factors identified by years of research can all fall under the umbrella of a few generalized labels: individual characteristics, family characteristics, school influences, peer influences and neighborhood environments.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Do We Know The Full Extent of Juvenile Recidivism?

Posted by MST Services

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Imagine spending thousands of dollars to lock up a juvenile, only to have them end up in the same position in the future. Recidivism - the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend - is a worrying statistic for justice advocates. Unlike adult recidivism, however, there are no national figures for juvenile recidivism rates.

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Topics: Juvenile Justice Reform

Difficulties Faced by Juvenile Offenders With Mental Illness

Posted by MST Services

AdobeStock_213897759It was an innocuous summer day in 2009 when DeVonte Jones first exhibited signs of schizophrenia. Jones and his mother were attending a baseball game at Wavering Park in Quincy, Illinois, a sprawling facility of playground equipment, pavilions, grills, and, of course, baseball diamonds. Jones was just a teenager at the time.

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Topics: Mental Health

The Holistic Approach to Mental Health

Posted by MST Services

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Every day in the U.S., one in five children are struggling with significant mental health issues. These diagnoses take many different forms— attention deficit disorder, depression and anxiety are among the most common— but all of them, left untreated, have the potential to cripple the opportunities of childhood. By only age eight, 14% of youth will have developed a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder; just over half of these children will receive the treatment they need. But unaddressed mental health issues increase the likelihood that treatable diseases will become chronic, leading to cycles of mental health struggles throughout adulthood; in fact, untreated mental health problems cost Americans billions each year in lost earnings. Even before reaching adulthood, youth with a mental health condition are at higher risks of developing co-occurring disorders, like substance abuse issues, and dropping out of school— grievously, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10-14.

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Topics: Mental Health