Dual Status Youth


Depending on how broadly dual system involvement is defined, estimates of youth in the juvenile justice system with child welfare involvement is upwards of 50 percent.[1] In field work with several local jurisdictions across the country, the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice has found that approximately two-thirds of the juvenile justice populations in these jurisdictions have had some level of contact with the child welfare system.[2] This connection between child welfare and juvenile delinquency is concerning for a number of reasons.  Youth who have contact with both systems, called “dual status” youth,[3] are more likely to suffer a host of problems – higher recidivism, higher rates of academic failure, mental health problems, and substance abuse.[4]  Additionally, since youth of color are disproportionately represented in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, this disproportionality is then magnified among dual status youth.[5]

To address disparities and serve the particular needs of dual status youth, a host of reforms have been developed, detailed in this section of the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub.  You will also find an overview of the key issues relating to dual status youth and helpful links to recent research, model policies, expert organizations, and toolkits to take action.

*This Hub section was written in close collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice.

[1] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate:  How Three Jurisdictions Improved Their Handling of Dual-Status Cases“ (Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice, April 2015): 3, http://www.ncjj.org/Publication/When-Systems-Collaborate-How-Three-Jurisdictions-Improved-their-Handling-of-Dual-Status-Cases.aspx.

[2] Jessica Heldman, Associate Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps. Email communication, October 21, 2015.

[3] Janet K. Wiig and John A. Tuell, with Jessica Heldman, “Guidebook for Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare System Coordination and Integration, 3rd ed.” (Washington, DC: Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, December 2013): xix, http://bit.ly/1nVvZ0b.

[4] David Altschuler, Gary Stangler, Kent Berkley, Leonard Burton, “Supporting Youth in Transition to Adulthood: Lessons Learned from Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice” (Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, April 2009): 9.

[5] Altschuler, et. al, “Supporting Youth in Transition to Adulthood,” 24-5; Models for Change, “Knowledge Brief: Is there a Link Between Child Welfare and Disproportionate Minority Contact in Juvenile Justice?” (Chicago: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, December 2011): 1,4,http://bit.ly/Zydj7O.


Dual Status Youth Topics