Multisystem Youth Project
CfJJ is working to address the issue of Crossover/Multisystem Youth through our Multisystem Youth Project. The project began with an examination of Massachusetts data on the child welfare and delinquency histories of children who have both child welfare and juvenile justice system involvement - so-called "Dual Status" or "Crossover" youth. This examination of the data was needed as part of the efforts to promote both juvenile justice and child welfare reform by decreasing detention and incarceration of youth receiving services from both the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) (who are currently over-represented in the juvenile system) and promoting policies that prevent young people from entering the juvenile justice system in the first place. Data on dually-involved youth was gathered from DCF and DYS and analyzed for factors that differentiated their experiences from children who were only involved in one or the other agency. This data was then used to generate a report highlighting the profiles – percentages, age, race, gender, geography, child welfare history - of children entering the juvenile justice system from the child welfare system. The analysis of this data, as well as an examination of the larger body of research on crossover youth, resulted in our report: Missed Opportunities.
The report has been used to educate leaders of agencies, lawmakers, and the public, on issues, practices, and policies that contribute to pushing kids from child welfare into the juvenile justice system.
Information on the impact of certain policies and experiences were included in the report so as to provide a larger picture of the emotional, social, psychological and long-term impact on children’s mental and behavioral health of the experiences of the children that were reflected in the report, and recommendations were made on ways to prevent, correct, or improve on the systems in terms of policies and coordination of services. The data and report were a starting point for further understanding of the profiles of these youth, and what best-practices can be implemented to better protect youth involved in the child welfare system from the experiences that are shown to lead to an increased likelihood of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
In addition to pushing forward with the recommendations made in the Missed Opportunities report, CfJJ continues to participate in current efforts to address the issue of dual-status youth in Massachusetts. These include:
1. The Dual Status Subcommittee in the Masschusetts House of Representatives, led by Representative Carol Dykema. This subcommittee has held hearings and conducted research on this issue and is currently preparing a report and legislative initiatives to address the causes of crossover as well as to support policies and programs that prevent dual-involvement and which support these youth.
2. Hampden County: One promising program in Massachusetts that addresses the issue of youth becoming dually-involved is the Hampden County Dual-Status Youth Initiative. This project, which received a technical assistance grant from MacArthur Foundation and the RFK Children’s Action Corps, identiﬁes youth who are dually involved at the time a delinquency case is commenced, and convenes a team to engage the young person and their family and develop a plan around what the adults need to do to support that young person. It has shown excellent results. The program has developed protocols to ensure that agencies can work together while preserving the privacy of individual youth. Eﬀorts to duplicate it are underway in Essex and Suﬀolk Counties. Preliminary results from the project have shown signiﬁcant reductions in both placement disruptions and recidivism for multiple groups of youth participating in the project, including reductions in the number of new oﬀenses or violations of probation by youth, the number of youth committed to DYS, the number of youth placed in DCF custody, and increased participation by families (particularly after the teams added parent advocates). For a site manual for the Hampden County Dual-Status Youth Initiative please see: http://rfknrcjj.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Hampden-County-MA-DSY-Manual.pdf
3. Work to improve school responses to children demonstrating behavioral issues as a result of the traumatic experiences which have resulted in their home removals, as well as from home removals themselves; coalitions such as the Chapter 222 Coalition and the Education Law Task Force, and the Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition, work to reduce the overuse of exclusionary discipline by schools when it comes to children with special education and behavioral health needs.
4. Work with our allies in the fields of children’s mental health to improve the coordination and expansion of services with the particular mental and behavioral health needs most prevalently experienced by children involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice system. A comprehensive and consistent model of care for these children, across all agencies they come in contact with them, is an essential component of any prevention strategy.
For more information or with questions please contact Multisystem Youth Project Director Kate Lowenstein: katelowenstein at cfjj.org.