Reform Trends

Click on a topic below for more information:

1.)    Cross-system Collaboration

2.)    Alternative Responses to Formal Processing and Detention

3.)    Collaborative Court Approaches

4.)    Permanency/Re-entry Planning

5.)    Information and Data Sharing

6.)    Youth and Family Engagement

1) Cross-system Collaboration

The child welfare and juvenile justice systems have historically operated in isolation from each other to the detriment of the youth. Increasing the integration and coordination between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, as well as other child-serving systems, such as mental health and education, can improve outcomes for youth in both systems by helping to identify youth at greater risk of juvenile justice system involvement earlier and by providing the expertise and resources to most effectively meet the needs of these youth.[1]

A) Models for Systemic Change

Two of the major initiatives that were developed to address systemic change in handling dual status youth are the  Framework for Dual Status Youth Reform and the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM). Below are brief descriptions of each.

1. Framework for Dual Status Youth Reform
With its genesis in the System Integration Initiative (SII) which began more than a decade ago, the Framework for Dual Status Youth Reform guides jurisdictions through a four phase planning process to determine what integration and coordination efforts will  positively impact the outcomes for children and families involved in child welfare and juvenile justice. [2] New ways of working together can involve the development of interagency agreements, integrated management information systems, policy and program development that emphasizes prevention, shared case management, and a host of other innovative and proven approaches. The framework  emphasizes  practices that meet the unique needs of youth and families as well as the unique goals and outcomes desired by the state or local jurisdiction.[3]

For examples of states and localities that have used this model see the Hub section on Community-Based Alternatives/Reform Trends.

2. The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM)
This model focuses on developing policies and practices that reflect how courts, mental health professionals, and probation officers should work together to improve outcomes for dual status youth, sometimes called crossover youth. The model is structured into three phases and five practice areas reflective of many dually-involved youth, beginning with the point of arrest in the delinquency system, to case assignment and case planning, coordinated case supervision, and finally planning for permanency, transition, and case closure.[4] It embodies a strength-based perspective and builds on the principle of ensuring family engagement and equitable treatment of youth.[5]

For examples of states and localities that have used this model see the Hub section on Community-Based Alternatives/Reform Trends.

B) Key Elements for Effective Cross-System Collaboration

Based on an extensive body of work with jurisdictions on systems coordination and integration, the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, led by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, recommends the following practices and products for jurisdictions seeking to more effectively coordinate the work of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems:

1. Building a Consolidated Governance Structure
The process of coordination and integration requires a strong foundation of commitment  from multiple system leaders.

      • Each jurisdiction should formalize a leadership group that will be responsible for making decisions and guiding the  reform process.
      • The group should include those who have the authority to make decisions within their agencies or entities as well as those who have experience working with youth and families.
      • At a minimum, such a group must include leaders from child welfare, juvenile justice, and the juvenile court.
      • These leaders must develop a shared vision, communicate it effectively, and hold themselves and others accountable for achieving it.
      • In many jurisdictions this group, often referred to as an executive committee, manages the work of several subcommittees focused on specific tasks that contribute to the overall development of a strategy for change.

+ Strategies: Administrative

King County, WA

An example of an effective governance structure is the Uniting for Youth collaborative in King County, Washington.

  • This group began meeting in 2004 and included leaders from various agencies, including the King County Superior Court, King County Probation, the Region IV Department of Social and Health Services, and the Puget Sound Educational School District.
  • The goal of the collaborative has been to interrupt the path from child maltreatment to delinquency and improve outcomes for children and families through multi-system integration and service coordination.
  • The group has lead the development of agreements, protocols, training and research that have supported a transformation of organizational culture.
  • The Executive Committee oversees several subcommittees exploring specialized topics such as education and mental health.
  • The Uniting for Youth collaborative continues to meet monthly, more than ten years after it began.[6]

2. Creating Interagency Agreements
An important aspect of collaborative initiatives is the formalization of new approaches, as well as good practices that might already be in use informally.

      • This often takes the form of interagency agreements, such as charter agreements or memoranda of understanding (MOUs).
      • Such agreements can serve a variety of purposes – from formalizing a general commitment to working together to outlining very detailed cross-system practices.
      • Agreements can be used to address long-standing and complex issues such as bridging deep philosophical divides or tackling data and information sharing conflicts.
      • Whatever the purpose, interagency agreements provide a platform from which to develop agreed-upon language defining the issues to be addressed and the actions that will be taken to address them.

+ Strategies: Administrative

King County, WA
Leaders in  King County, Washington,  drafted a charter agreement that focused on promotin “increased cooperation, coordination, and integration at the administrative and service delivery levels” to benefit children and families in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems using a comprehensive strategic planning process. They then committed to several activities to achieve these goals.[7] This charter created the foundation for more than a decade worth of collaborative work on behalf of youth and families.

Placer County, CA
California has a unique statutory structure that has for decades required juvenile courts to determine whether a particular dual status youth will be adjudicated as dependent or delinquent, prohibiting the youth from simultaneously being both. More recently, the California legislature has allowed counties to develop new protocols to allow for dual jurisdiction.[8] Placer County has accordingly drafted a detailed MOU to outline its coordinated approach to youth with dual jurisdiction. The MOU includes policy and procedure on cross-system screening, assessment, case assignment, case planning, and case supervision.[9]

Santa Clara County, CA

  • Santa Clara County, CA was one of four sites selected to participate in a Dual Status Youth Reform initiative, jointly funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), to improve outcomes for dual status youth.
  • As part of the initiative, the local executive committee developed an MOU  signed by 10  agency directors, judges, attorneys and youth, which specified the desired youth, family, community, and system outcomes.[10]
  • The MOU served as a tool to help communicate the importance of the initiative and the commitment of a broad group of leaders to making it successful. It continues to educate and inform the collaborative work in Santa Clara County.


3. Cross-System Training
Among the factors that promote integration and coordination is staff training across systems.[11]

      • In order to effectively work together with staff in other agencies or organizations, staff members need to learn how those other agencies work.
      • Staff need to be trained in any changes in practice and new responsibilities or job requirements.
      • All stakeholders affected by an initiative need to learn about the purpose of the initiative as well as the new values, priorities or goals developed as a part of the reform.
      • Staff must have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback, as well as to troubleshoot challenges jointly as new practices take hold.
      • Cross-system training cannot be a one-time event; jurisdictions must work to develop a training plan that addresses dual status youth work with new hires and in an ongoing fashion.


+ Strategies: Administrative

King County, WA
The King County Uniting for Youth initiative has made cross-system training a high priority since its inception.

  • The initiative has provided in-depth presentations on the various system partners and their work as well as keynote speakers on topics of interest to those working across systems with dual status youth.
  • An evaluation of Uniting for Youth revealed that almost all training participants surveyed felt that cross-system training was “very important” or at least “somewhat important” to their work and to positive outcomes with youth.
  • Researchers concluded that the cross-system training was valued and benefitted all departments and systems.[12]

Lehigh County, PA
In Lehigh County, PA, leadership recognized that for their newly established interagency protocol to be successful, they had to strengthen the relationship between the Juvenile Probation Department and the Office of Children and Youth Services. Staff from each agency needed to gain an understanding of how the other agency works and why. They accomplished this by holding  a day-long workshop that included many levels of staff learning about the different agency missions, mandates, and processes and leadership expressed their belief in the value of cross-system work.[13] Additionally, new hires in each agency are now paired with counterparts in the partner agency and shadow the worker for a day in order to better understand their work.[14]


4. Service Integration
In addition to increasing integration and cooperation between child welfare and juvenile justice systems, coordination between other critical child serving systems such as mental health and education can help to prevent juvenile justice system involvement and greatly improve outcomes for youth and families.

+ Strategies: Administrative

Milwaukee, WI

  • Wraparound Milwaukee integrates child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice and education services for youth and families and pools dollars among the system partners.
  • Serving children with mental health needs, it uses a strengths-based approach, engages families in the treatment process and in identifying and addressing their needs, tailors treatment plans to the unique needs of the family, and employs an outcome-focused approach.
  • The program consists of a care coordinator, a mobile crisis team, a provider network, and the child and family team.
  • Outcomes have been very positive, demonstrating an 80% decrease in inpatient psychiatric hospitalization and a drop in the cost of care per child.[15]


5. Cross-Agency Casework
Dually-involved youth and their families are likely to be working with both social workers and probation officers – professionals who may have different missions and mandates. These professionals may rarely contact one another, much less coordinate their plans. To address this common  problem, some jurisdictions have established cross-system practices, multi-disciplinary meetings, and even specialized units or teams that dedicate staff in each agency to working together with dual status youth. See  below for examples of each.

+ Strategies: Administrative

Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) for Joint Assessment

  • Los Angeles County, CA
    When a youth is involved with both the child welfare and the juvenile justice system, the juvenile court will order a joint assessment to be completed by a multi-disciplinary team (MDT).

    • The MDT includes members from the Department of Children and Family Services, Juvenile Probation, Department of Mental Health, and an education representative.
    • The team accumulates facts and evaluates them, including assessing strengths, risks, and needs.
    • The team makes recommendations to the court as to the appropriate court status for the youth (as a dependent or a delinquent, or in some cases, a dually-adjudicated youth) and  a services plan.
    • The services plan will include a description of the youth’s mental health needs, the recommended services and the agency that will provide the services, and whether the youth has special education needs, and if so, whether they are being addressed.[16]

Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) for Case Planning and Case Management

  • Douglas County, NE[17]
    • The Youth Impact! initiative uses a multidisciplinary treatment team to handle cases of youth that have a current law violation or status offense, and who have a current open child welfare case, or had one closed within the past 12 months.
    • Facilitated by the local child advocacy center, the team meetings occur each Thursday afternoon at the Douglas County Juvenile Assessment Center.
    • Attendees include the youth, family, a Douglas County juvenile attorney, and representatives from the local child welfare case management agency, a youth advocate, a parent advocate, and juvenile probation.
    • The goal of the meeting is for the entire group, including the youth and family, to discuss the youth’s current needs and make a recommendation to the county attorney on how to address the law violation.
    • The early results for approximately 300 youth are encouraging — in 84% of the cases, the county attorney did not file charges instead choosing diversion, enhanced child welfare services, or no further legal action.
  •  Hampden County, MA
    Hampden County  reform began with implementing a Multi-Disciplinary Team Meeting (MDT)  for dually-involved youth.

    • When a dually-involved youth appears before the judge at arraignment, the defense attorney will  describe to the youth and their parent or legal guardian the purpose of the MDT and the potential benefit of participation.
    • Interested families  are connected to the Juvenile Court Clinic, where a staff clinician describes the meeting process in more detail and explores the family’s concerns, particularly as they relate to the delinquency complaint and related risk factors.
    • Families list important people to invite to the meeting and are provided information on other standard attendees: the probation officer, social worker, defense attorney and assistant district attorney.
    • Participating families sign a release of information  allowing professionals to share information and select participants for the meeting.
    • Each person is asked to come to the meeting with suggestions for preventing the young person from moving deeper into the delinquency system.
    • Other individual goals are developed as part of the process. In the meeting, the court clinician serves as a facilitator and solicits the perspectives of the participants and brings the meeting to a close with a summary of action steps and assigned roles.
    • The plan is presented to the judge at the pre-trial conference by the defense attorney and updates are provided by the responsible parties.[18]
  • Newton County, GA
    • The collaboration in Newton County, Georgia – SYNC: Serving Youth in Newton County, worked together to coordinate their efforts on behalf of dual status youth.
    • Among other efforts, the planners adaptated the already existing “Local Interagency Planning Team (LIPT)” for use with dual status youth  diverted from formal processing. This made it possible to  share assessments to  develop a comprehensive case plan for the youth and family.[19]

Specialized Units: Shared Case Responsibility

  • Santa Clara
    In Santa Clara County, CA, the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) and the Juvenile Probation Department established a specialized unit that brings together dedicated Juvenile Probation Officers and DFCS Social Workers to jointly provide services and intensive case management in dually-involved youth cases.

    • The Officers and Social Workers work with a Youth Advocate, who guides the process of identifying the youth’s and family’s strengths and needs and devising recommendations that are then presented to the Juvenile Court.
    • If a case remains open in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, the Dually-Involved Youth Unit continues to provide coordinated case supervision.[20]


+ Strategies: Legislative

California is home to several areas identified as having significant numbers of commercially sexually exploited children . Many exploited children have prior involvement in the child welfare system and because their exploitation  is often still criminalized they then become involved with the juvenile justice system.[21]

  • In 2015, legislation was signed into law that created a Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Program providing funding to counties to develop prevention, intervention, and other services for sexually exploited children.
  • The program requires counties to opt-in by developing local interagency protocols for serving these youth; these protocols are required to include a cross-system steering committee and a multidisciplinary team meeting process.
  • Although designed to address sexually exploited children, the protocols can be used to address other youth involved with multiple systems, such as dual status youth.[22]

In 2015, Indiana passed H.B. 1196, which outlines new requirements for identifying dual status youth and coordinating services with a lead agency.

  • The law requires that if an intake officer believes that the child is a child in need of services (CHINS) when coming into the juvenile justice system, the officer must use a dual status screening tool to ensure that the youth is handled by the appropriate department, and to refer the youth for an assessment by a dual status assessment team.
  • Services are then coordinated for dually-involved youth, with one agency identified as the primary supervising agency.[23]

Pennsylvania passed Act 148 to create an incentive for counties to develop local programs for youth involved in the juvenile justice system rather than maintaining  a funding structure that incentivized counties to send youth to state institutions.

  • The Act was later amended to create the system of Needs-Based Planning and Budgeting which directs each county’s child welfare agency to work with the juvenile court and the probation department to develop a plan that predicts service needs and costs for court-involved youth.
  • This approach, which has been administratively adopted into planning at the county level, replaces the traditional funding structure that divides funds and services into silos to the detriment of youth and families.[24]


2) Alternatives to Formal Processing and Detention

As with many youth in the justice system, dual status youth can often be best served by diversion or redirection away from the juvenile justice system. Identifying youth entering the juvenile justice system at the earliest stage possible (contact with law enforcement, intake, or detention are all possible early stages) to determine if they have an active or open dependency case and risk assessment where appropriate are some of the helpful tools described below in promoting alternative responses to the formal processing of youth into the juvenile justice system.

A) Identification of Dual Status Youth

It is a foundational element of dual status youth reform to ensure that youth who enter the juvenile justice system can be identified as dual status youth routinely and in a timely manner. This greatly benefits the youth in helping to prevent disruptions of placement, in providing relevant information to juvenile justice decision-makers, and in reducing unnecessary detention.

+ Strategies: Administrative


  • In Maryland, probation intake workers are able to check for open child welfare involvement through the use of a stand-alone data system called the “Child Safety Net Dashboard” that indicates cross-system involvement and provides caseworker contact information.
  • Notably, because of the stand-alone nature of the dashboard, child welfare staff are also able to ascertain whether a youth has an open case in the juvenile justice system.
  • This identification provides the opportunity for cross-system communication.[25]

San Diego County, CA

  • To ensure timely identification of dual status youth, the San Diego County Probation Department is provided access to the child welfare case management system to  view details of a youth’s child welfare history and current status upon detaining the youth.
  • Probation intake staff can identify the case worker, opening the door to appropriate and legal information sharing that can assist the probation officer in making decisions about possible release or early alternative responses to a delinquency referral.
  • For youth who are not detained, probation officers check the child welfare case management system, identify the social worker, and schedule a collaboration team meeting in which the officer, the caseworker, education and mental health representatives, as well as youth and families work together to consider and devise a diversion plan.[26]

B) Screening and Assessment

The use of objective screening and assessment tools to identify risks and needs is important with all youth referred to the juvenile justice and the child welfare systems. Dual status youth present an even more compelling argument for the use of such tools because the assessment of risk factors can identify children at risk of both maltreatment and delinquency, allowing for the application of targeted programming to address family issues and  reduce the likelihood of reoffending.[27] In addition, the ability to distinguish the serious and low-level cases allows for directing resources to the higher-risk youth while keeping the low-risk youth out of the formal juvenile justice system.

1. Risk Assessment – All Children Excel (ACE)
ACE focuses on children under the age of 10 who commit offenses.

      • The goal of the program is to reduce the number of these young children entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and improve services.
      • A core element is the use of a risk assessment tool to identify high-risk youth and provide them with long-term interventions focused on the needs of the child and the family.
      • Evaluation of the program reported gains such as decline in delinquent behavior, school failure and police contact.[28]

2. Trauma Screening
Research on trauma exposure of youth in child welfare and delinquency populations suggests that dual status youth more often experience complex trauma than youth within the general population.  Implementing trauma screening can  identify conditions that may be at the root of behavior problems. This allows agencies to design appropriate treatment and service plans to address the underlying trauma – or the avoidance of treatment where it might be harmful.[29]

C) Alternatives to Detention and Reducing Out of Home Placement

Research shows that community supervision and non-residential evidence-based programs are more effective and much more cost-efficient than routinely detaining many youth who pose little danger to public safety.[30]  Negative effects of placing youth out of the home in detention facilities prior to trial include increasing the likelihood that they will be formally charged and adjudicated delinquent when compared to youth who remain home.[31] Below are alternatives to detention for dual status youth.

+ Strategies: Administrative

Cook County, IL

  • The Released Upon Request (RUR) to the Department of Children and Family Services Program was established in 2015 in order to reduce detention time and keep youth in the least restrictive setting possible.[32]
  • The program includes a multi-disciplinary child and family team meeting held at the detention center to discuss placement options.
  • In addition, juvenile judges have begun to allow the Department of Children and Family Services to place youth in emergency shelters rather than remaining in detention if they are waiting for placement.[33]

New York City, NY

  • New York City developed Project Confirm in order to address the issue of foster youth being detained at a higher rate than youth not involved in the child welfare system. All youth who are arrested and detained are screened for foster care status.
  • The project makes it possible in eligible cases to notify the child welfare caseworker; for the caseworker to attend delinquency hearings; and to hold court conferences to provide better information to probation officers, prosecutors, and judges.[34]

San Diego, CA

  • The Alternatives to Detention program in San Diego allows youth involved with minor incidents to be placed in what is referred to as a “cool bed” temporarily, in order to allow the situation to settle down, to assess the youth, and to connect the youth and family to appropriate services to address the situation.
  • The youth are able to remain in their community, continue at their school, and are often returned to their families or placement more quickly than if they were detained.[35]
  • This program has recently been made accessible to youth residing in the child welfare shelters.[36]

D) Alternatives to Formal Processing

Traditional  justice system responses often  have a negative effect on youth and also are not  cost effective.[37] Below are strategies for alternative approaches  for dual status youth.

+ Strategies: Administrative

Douglas County, NE
The Youth Impact! initiative uses a multidisciplinary treatment team to facilitate timely sharing of information with the juvenile county attorney and to create a safe environment where the youth and family can tell their story and have input into the plan developed by the team.

See Cross-System Collaboration/Key Elements for Effective Cross-System Collaboration/Cross-Agency Casework for further details.

DuPage, IL
Through the Models for Change Initiative in Illinois, three sites developed policy, practice and programs to respond to cases of adolescent domestic battery.

  • The sites determined through research that traditional justice system responses were not effective in addressing the needs of youth and families involved in these cases, and that front-end interventions proved more effective.
  • Although alternatives to detention were already in existence within the sites, the approaches employed were not appropriate for use with families experiencing domestic violence.
  • In DuPage County, stakeholders devised a new approach that included diverting eligible youth and families from formal court processing to a targeted intervention program. [38]

+ Strategies: Legislation

In 2014, AB 388 was signed into law to help address the disparate treatment of foster youth in juvenile justice and reduce the number of foster youth entering the juvenile justice system.

  • The law focuses on group homes, requiring the development of group home performance standards and outcome measures related to law enforcement referrals and increasing inspections of group homes with greater than average referral rates.
  • Additionally, group homes are required to devise strategies to reduce law enforcement referrals. [39]
  • The bill also directs the county probation department and the child welfare services department to consider whether the alleged conduct that resulted in the referral to juvenile justice is within the scope of behaviors that are intended to be managed or treated by the referring facility.
  • Finally, the bill requires that a court’s decision to detain a dependent cannot be based on the minor’s status as a dependent or the child welfare departments’ inability to find an appropriate placement.[40]

In July, 2015, the Governor of the State of Indiana signed into law House Enrollment Act (HEA) 1196, CHINS (Child In Need of Services) and Delinquent Child Dual Determination.[41] HEA 1196 brings together child welfare and probation agencies to coordinate services and processes for the best outcomes for youth.

  • This statute provides instructive guidelines for the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and the Indiana county probation offices’  interactions with youth who are, or have been, involved in both systems.
  • If a child is determined to be a dual status youth, HEA 1196 sets forth a process for establishment of a dual system assessment team to share information that will assist the court in determining the services to be provided to the youth and family through either or both systems.
  • In the case of dually adjudicated youth, HEA 1196 allows for the court to determine a “lead agency,” which is either the child welfare department or the probation department.

+ Strategies: Litigation


  • Katie A. v. Bonta, a class action lawsuit filed in federal district court, addressed the availability of intensive mental health services to children in California either in foster care or at imminent risk of entering foster care.
  • The named plaintiff was a 14 year old child in foster care who suffered from serious mental health issues and was not provided with needed mental health treatment. She remained in foster care for 10 years, experiencing 37 different placements.
  • Attorneys representing Katie A. argued that the failure to provide mental health treatment to this class of children resulted in youth who failed in foster homes, forcing them to move to group homes, and in many cases, entry into the juvenile justice system.
  • In 2011, a settlement was reached in which state agencies agreed to facilitate the provision of coordinated, comprehensive, and community-based services and to address the needs of a subclass of those who require medically-necessary mental health services in their own home or family setting to support their need for safety, permanence, and well-being.[42]

3) Collaborative Court Approaches

Several communities have engaged the juvenile court to develop better strategies for working with dual status youth. This can take a variety of forms, including dedicated court dockets for all dual status cases and the “one family/one judge” approach, which entails having a single judge hear all the dependency and delinquency cases for the youth that are in a family. [43] Below are examples of these types of approaches.

A) Dedicated Dockets

According to the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, one of the key principles of a juvenile delinquency court of excellence is to ensure that judges have multiple year or permanent assignments, setting the ideal term as six years at a minimum.[44] The goal is to ensure that the judges handling these cases have an interest in child welfare as well as sufficient knowledge and experience to handle the complexity of delinquency cases. The increased complexity of dual status youth cases makes the need for knowledgeable and experienced judges — as well as public defenders and prosecutors — even more critical.

To increase the expertise of all the stakeholders, some jurisdictions have created “dedicated dockets,” in which dual status cases are assigned to a designated court and judge, public defender, and prosecutor. Both the child welfare social worker and the juvenile justice caseworker generally must attend all of the youth’s delinquency and dependency court hearings.


+ Strategies: Administrative

Hampden County, MA
Following the establishment of a multi-disciplinary team process in juvenile court for dual status youth, it was determined that developing a dedicated docket would be of great benefit, providing consistent judicial review of the cases. A regular time and day was set for dually-involved youth to appear before judges who had received training on the dual status population.[45]

Jefferson County, AL
The family court in Jefferson County makes use of a dedicated docket for dual status youth. A specific day of the week is reserved to hear dual jurisdiction cases, ensuring that all the various parties will be available to participate.[46]

Outagamie, WI
As part of its dual status youth initiative, the judges in Outagamie County, WI, assign all dually involved youth — as well as dually identified youth with a new case — to a judge with interest and expertise in managing these cases. Two particular judges have created and maintained these dedicated dockets as an exception to the regular annual judicial rotation scheme, ensuring consistency and sensitivity for dual status youth.[47]

San Diego, CA
In San Diego, CA, the dual calendar is held on the same day and time each week and dedicated participants are present to conduct the necessary hearings for dual status youth. The regular parties include the delinquency attorney, the dependency attorney, the district attorney, county counsel (representing the child welfare department) and the probation department. The hearings are held in the same department, in front of the same judge each week.[48]

B) One Family/One Judge

In the one family/one judge model, a single court hears the child welfare and the delinquency cases. This model is endorsed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and has clear benefits, including better informed judges and less risk of conflicting or confusing court orders.[49]

+ Strategies: Administrative

Allegheny County, PA
Allegheny County has a one family/one judge scheduling system for practically all family division matters including dependency and delinquency. In addition, for the last 15 years the court has held  “Dual Court  Days” where both dependency and delinquency issues are addressed in the same hearing. Anecdotally, the professionals involved agree that children and families are better served when one judge is able to hear all matters. Nevertheless, there are many practical challenges to maintaining this model.[50]

Tucson, AZ
Tucson follows a policy of “one judge, one family, one youth” in its juvenile court, which combines delinquency and dependency hearings as much as feasible. Probation officers and caseworkers are required to attend all hearings.[51]

Vermont employs a unified family court in which all of a family’s proceedings, including child protection and delinquency – are held in the same court. This aids in identifying dual status youth and ensures that the judge has access to all relevant court files related to their families.[52]

4) Permanency/Re-entry Planning

To help youth make a successful transition home from youth facilities, it is increasingly recognized that re-entry planning and reintegrative services, support, and supervision, often called “aftercare” services, are vitally important.[53] Likewise, achieving youth permanency – meaning a placement in a stable home or a suitable independent living alternative and connections to supportive adults, has long been recognized as an important goal for youth in the child welfare system.[54] Permanency and re-entry planning are particularly challenging for dual status youth as they generally have weaker family and community connections upon release, as many have experienced years of formal court involvement and multiple congregate care placements.[55]

Achieving permanency and successful re-entry requires thoughtful planning that begins at the earliest point in a case – for dual status youth, that is usually at arrest. All activities and decisions regarding the youth must occur with the goal of finding a permanent and stable network of committed adults to support the youth.[56] Below are strategies for permanency and re-entry planning for dual status youth. Also see the Re-entry Resource Hub section for further information on re-entry issues for youth in the juvenile justice system.

A) Family Finding

The Family Finding model focuses on identifying a wide range of relatives and others from which a network of supportive adults can be established for a youth in foster care.

  • This model provides methods to connect with and engage supportive adults to create permanent connections, devising plans for both legal permanency and plans for meeting the needs of disconnected youth.
  • An explicit goal of the model is to “prevent recidivism within or between formal services systems, including prevention of youth ‘graduation’ into the adult correctional system.”[57]

+ Strategies: Administrative

Outagamie County, WI
In Outagamie County, WI, the child welfare division has employed the Family Finding model and has trained together with the probation division on the use of this strategy. [58]

B) Permanency Roundtables

Permanency roundtables, a practice developed by Casey Family Programs, have been employed to meet the goal of achieving legal permanency, particularly for youth who had been in foster care for a long period of time. Permanency roundtables include case presentations and structured discussion with the goal of devising creative solutions to permanency for children in care.[59]

+ Strategies: Administrative


  • In 2015, Indiana adopted the permanency roundtables model for use in juvenile delinquency cases.
  • Indiana’s roundtable includes a probation officer and a representative from the Department of Child Services. This provides an opportunity to explore all possible permanency options and to ensure services are provided to the youth and family to help transition from a placement or institution to a home.[60]

+ Strategies: Legislative

In Arkansas, legislation established the Ombudsman Division within the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. The role of the Ombudsman includes coordinating monthly child welfare and juvenile justice joint staff reviews for cases of youth who are likely to have difficulty with reentry and placement. In addition, Arkansas has several statutes that directly address dual status youth, specifically establishing procedures through which jurisdictional issues can be addressed, placement issues can be considered, and transitional services can be obtained.[61]

5) Information and Data Sharing

In order to effectively collaborate across systems, it is vital to collect and share information about individual youth, for purposes such as identifying multi-system youth and coordinating their case plans. Additionally, it is important to collect and share data about youth in each system, for purposes such as determining which interventions are most effective. Equally important is the need to share this information and data in a way that comports with the law and protects a youth’s legal rights and does not harm them, which can happen if information or data is improperly disclosed.[62]

There are multiple federal and state laws governing the collection and sharing of information and data which must be navigated. Below are strategies relevant to ensuring appropriate and legal information and data sharing. See the Resources section for further guidance.

A) Information Sharing Guides

Federal and state statutes and regulations create a complex landscape of permissions and prohibitions with regard to the sharing of data and information about youth involved with public agencies. When faced with this complexity, agency leaders and attorneys often opt to simply restrict the sharing of information, even when restriction is not necessary and disclosure would be beneficial to the youth. In addition, many practitioners engage in informal information sharing when formal processes are too cumbersome or non-existent. This increases the risk that information will be misused and inappropriately disseminated. In order to address these issues, several jurisdictions have developed information sharing guides aimed at informing and instructing practitioners working in various youth and family serving systems. For a comprehensive guide see the on-line Models for Change Information Sharing Toolkit – Second Edition.[63]


+ Strategies: Administrative

Clark County, WA
As part of the Models for Change Initiative in Washington State, Clark County formed an information sharing workgroup to review federal and state statutes and regulations related to information sharing.

  • The workgroup developed an information sharing guide with the purpose of providing clear guidelines that would be easy for agency personnel involved with youth and families to understand and follow.
  • The guide provides foundational information such as best practices for requestors of information and an information sharing decision-tree for providers of information.
  • It also contains specific guidance on what information can be shared, how much can be shared and who can receive information about a child in various circumstances.[64]


  • In 2014, the Court Improvement Project in Massachusetts — a multi-disciplinary team of agency leaders and attorneys — began development of an online information sharing guide with the assistance of the RFK National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice.
  • The team is developing guidelines to ensure the protection of the constitutional and statutory rights of youth and families involved with multiple systems.
  • The guide will be unique in its online format and will be available in Spring 2016.

B) Data and Information Sharing Agreements

When a jurisdiction agrees to share information or data between its youth-serving systems, it is prudent for agencies and organizations to ensure that details of this sharing are formalized and drafted with specificity and that governance structures are in place to ensure ongoing oversight. This can be achieved with legal agreements or Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs).


+ Strategies: Administrative

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana

  • As part of its work within the Models for Change initiative, the Children and Youth Planning board in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana created an information sharing agreement that specifically addressed each agency’s responsibility in receiving and releasing information about youth and families.
  • In order to craft an MOU, the group decided to review and catalog the laws related to juvenile information sharing.
  • This work resulted in the creation of a Practitioner’s Guide to Confidentiality, which largely informed the parameters of the final information sharing agreement.[65]

Newton County, GA

As part of its Dual Status Youth Initiative, the multi-system team in Newton County, GA recognized the need to identify which youth entering the juvenile justice system had child welfare system involvement in order to design policies and practices to effectively serve dual status youth.

  • The group drafted a data sharing agreement that described how data would be shared, including the key data elements and the staff responsibilities for collecting the information.
  • The agreement had to be consistent with Georgia law and federal law and take into account the limitations of each agency’s data system.
  • The year-long task of drafting this agreement resulted in the ability to collect prevalence data that guided the development of training and education about dual status youth in the county.
  • The agreement also provided the foundation for establishing routine information sharing practices between child welfare caseworkers and court intake officers.[66]

C) Protecting Youth Against Self Incrimination

A critical consideration when developing information sharing practices to better serve dual status youth is ensuring that the constitutional rights and statutory privileges of juveniles are protected. Many jurisdictions lack adequate protection in law or court rules regarding the possibility of a youth making statements against his or her interest when undergoing screening, assessment, and treatment. Below are strategies for protecting youth while still providing for the sharing of critical information.

+ Strategies: Administrative

Protective MOUs

Jurisdictions can help protect youth’s constitutional and statutory privileges by  developing an interagency MOU outlining permitted and prohibited disclosures and uses of information and statements. A template for such an agreement is provided in the Juvenile Law Center’s publication, Protecting Youth from Self-Incrimination when Undergoing Screening, Assessment and Treatment within the Juvenile Justice System.[67]

+ Strategies: Legislative

Recent legislation in Indiana directly addresses information sharing concerns by including the following language regarding protections within a multi-disciplinary team meeting:

  • Section 4. All statements communicated in a dual status assessment team meeting are: (1) not admissible as evidence against the child in any judicial proceeding; and (2) not discoverable in any litigation.[68]

South Dakota

  • Legislation developed in South Dakota addressed the incorporation of child protective services records into the juvenile justice case process in order to improve case planning and management.
  • The legislation was drafted by a committee that undertook a rigorous legal analysis of the issue, and it was enacted into law in 2007.
  • Following the legislation was the promulgation of procedures for the release of child welfare information in accordance with the new law, detailing the protocols, timeframes, and specific information to be shared between child welfare and the Department of Corrections.[69]


6) Youth and Family Engagement

There is increasing recognition that youth and family engagement is integral to the success of youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Yet more work needs to be done in both systems to make youth and families full partners in the process, from the point of initial contact and at every step along the way, including assessment, development of case plans, the court process, and ongoing case management.[70]

Blaming families and excluding them from the process, as sometimes occurs, can result in the family’s lack of involvement, which often leads to unsuccessful case plans. Rather, families should be integrally involved and have a voice in both systems. See below for strategies on youth and family engagement.[71]


+ Strategies: Administrative

Hampden County, MA

  • Hampden County employs case conferencing for dual status youth who come before the court. This multi-disciplinary team meeting only occurs if the family chooses to participate.
  • The Juvenile Court Clinic clinician facilitates the process, first explaining to families the process in detail, then asking the family to identify individuals they would like to have invited to attend. Family invitees have included therapists, school counselors, extended family members, mentors, and parent advocates, among others. The families are able to determine what information will be shared and with whom.
  • During the meeting, the court clinician facilitates the conversation, but the family takes the lead in the discussion and in devising the recommended course of action.
  • Hampden County has also identified funding to provide parent peer advocates to assist parents in areas such as educational advocacy, accessing mental health services, and advocating for their children.[72]

Santa Clara County, CA

  • Santa Clara County runs Youth and Family Team meetings with the goal of partnering with the youth and family in identifying the support necessary for the youth to function safely and ultimately free of system involvement.
  • Santa Clara created a new position of Dually Involved Youth Advocate, specifically hired to help support the youth and help empower them to advocate on their own behalf. This advocate is a bilingual young adult who was formerly in foster care.[73]
  • The team process begins with the youth advocate focusing on building a relationship with the youth and family and conducting an assessment of the youth’s most pressing and relevant needs.[74]


[1] Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, “From Conversation to Collaboration: How Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Agencies Can Work Together to Improve Outcomes for Dual Status Youth” (May 8, 2014): 5,

[2] Janet K. Wiig and John A. Tuell with Jessica K. Heldman, “Guidebook for Juvenile Justice & Child Welfare System Coordination and Integration,” 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2013): xx-xxi,

[3]John A. Tuell, Jessica K. Heldman, and Janet K. Wiig, “Dual Status Youth – Technical Assistance Workbook” (Washington, DC: Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2013): 5,

[4] Denise Herz, et. al., “Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth: Strengthening the Connection between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice” (Washington, DC: The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, March 2012): 34-44; Lorrie Lutz and Macon Stewart, “The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), An Abbreviated Guide” (Washington, DC: Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, 2015): 25,

[5] Lutz & Stewart, “The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), An Abbreviated Guide,” 2.

[6] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 87.

[7] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 123, Appendix E.

[8] Judicial Council of California/Administrative Office of the Courts and the Center for Families, Children & the Courts, “Dual-Status Children: Protocols for Implementing Assembly Bill 129” (San Francisco, CA, 2007): i,

[9] Judicial Council of California, “Dual-Status Children: Protocols for Implementing Assembly Bill 129,” 95-102.

[10] Tuell, et. al., “Dual Status Youth – Technical Assistance Workbook,” 65, Appendix O.

[11] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 1.

[12] Linda Rinaldi and Nancy Ashley, “King County Uniting for Youth Implementation Evaluation” (Chicago, IL: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change, Dec. 31, 2012): 27-33,

[13] 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): 9-10,

[14] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 9-10.

[15] Bruce Kamradt, “Wraparound Milwaukee: Aiding Youth with Mental Health Needs” Juvenile Justice – Youth With Mental Health Disorders: Issues and Emerging Responses, 7(1) (April 2000): 14-23,

[16] Memorandum from Michael Nash, Presiding Judge, Juvenile Division, Superior Court, Los Angeles County, to All Participants in the Los Angeles County Juvenile Justice System regarding WIC 241.1 Protocol (Oct. 11, 2011),

[17] Operation Youth Success. Douglas County, Nebraska. Youth Impact!

[18] “Hampden County Massachusetts Dual Status Youth Initiative – Site Manual” (June 2012 – June 2013): 8-9,

[19] Site Manual – Newton County, Georgia (Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps and Models for Change): 30-32,

[20] Dually Involved Youth Protocol, Santa Clara County, Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.1 (2015),

[21] Kate Walker, “Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California” (California Child Welfare Council, 2013): 10-11,

[22] Child Welfare Council Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Action Team, “Memorandum of Understanding Template for the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Program” (2015): 2,

[23] H.B. 1196, 119th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (IN 2015),

[24] Neelum Aryna, Eric Lotke, Liz Ryan, Marc Schindler, Dana Shoenberg, Mark Soler, “Keystones for Reform: Promising Juvenile Justice Policies and Practices in Pennsylvania” (Youth Law Center, 2005),

[25] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 7.

[26] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 6.

[27] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 50; Gina M. Vincent, Laura S. Guy, and Thomas Grisso, “Risk Assessment in Juvenile Justice: A Guidebook for Implementation” (Chicago, IL: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change Initiative, November 2012): 5,

[28] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 76.

[29] Thomas Grisso and Gina Vincent, “Trauma in Dual Status Youth: Putting Things in Perspective” (Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, 2014): 4.

[30] The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Issue Brief: Reform the Nation’s Juvenile Justice System” (January 2009): 3,

[31] National Juvenile Justice Network, “Emerging Findings and Policy Implications from the Pathways to Desistance Study” (Washington, DC: 2012). Available at; T. Loughran, et al., “Estimating a Dose-Response Relationship Between Length of Stay and Future Recidivism in Serious Juvenile Offenders,” Criminology, 47 (2009).

[32] “WE CAN Dually Involved Guidebook,” Guidebook for Dually Involved Children in Cook County, Illinois: 4.

[33] Patrick Smith, “Wait Time for State Wards in Jail Cut in Half,” (WBEZ 91.5, November 10, 2015):

[34] Dylan Conger and Timothy Ross, “Reducing the Foster Care Bias in Juvenile Detention Decisions: The Impact of Project Confirm” (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, June 2001); Lutz & Stewart, “The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), An Abbreviated Guide,” 8-9.

[35] San Diego County News Center, “Probation Gets Grant to Expand Juvenile Diversion Program,” (March 11, 2015),

[36] Jessica Heldman, Associate Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, personal communication, December 3, 2015.

[37] National Juvenile Justice Network, “The Truth About Consequences: Studies Point toward Sparing Use of Formal Juvenile Justice System Processing and Incarceration” (Washington, DC): 1,

[38] Illinios Models for Change Initiative, “Adolescent Domestic Battery: Responding Effectively to Families in Crisis” (December 2012).

[39] A.B. 388, Gen. Assemb, Reg. Sess. (CA 2014),

[40]  A.B. 388, Gen. Assemb, Reg. Sess. (CA 2014),

[41] H.B. 1196, 119th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (IN 2015),

[42] Katie A. v. Diana Bonta, Case No. CV-02-05662 AHM (C.D. California, July 16, 2003) (stipulated order re: final approval of class settlement),; see also, Bernice Yeung, “Settlement Orders Better Mental Health Care for Foster Kids” (Sept. 30, 2011),

[43] Herz, et. al., Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth, 39; see also, Jessica K. Heldman, “A Guide to Legal and Policy Analysis for Systems Integration,” (Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 2006): 35,

[44] National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, 24 (Spring 2005);

[45] “Hampden County Massachusetts Dual Status Youth Initiative – Site Manual” (June 2012 – June 2013),

[46] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 7.

[47] Jessica Heldman, Associate Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, personal communication, November 22, 2015.

[48] Jessica Heldman, Associate Executive Director, Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, personal communication, December 3, 2015.

[49] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 6; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, 24.

[50] Russell Carlino, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, Allegheny County Juvenile Probation, email communication (November 24, 2015).

[51]  Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 6; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines, 24.

[52] Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children, “Examples of Collaborations Serving Crossover Youth,” accessed Dec. 2, 2015,

[53] Carol Schubert and Edward P. Mulvey, “Aftercare Services are Key to Positive Community Adjustment” (Chicago, IL: Catherine T. and John D. MacArthur Foundation, 2014): 2,

[54] Lutz & Stewart, “The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), An Abbreviated Guide,” 25.

[55] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate, 13.

[56] Lutz & Stewart, “The Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), An Abbreviated Guide,” 26; Federal Interagency Reentry Council, “Juvenile Reentry” (June 2014): 1,

[57] National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness, “More about Family Finding,” accessed Dec. 2, 2015,

[58] Mark Mertens, Manager, Youth and Family Services Division, Outagamie County Health and Human Services Dept. and Melissa Blom, Children Youth, and Families Division Manager, Outagamie County Health and Human Services Dept., email communication, May 21, 2015.

[59] Care Solutions, Inc. and Casey Family Programs, “Permanency Roundtable Project: 24-Month Outcome Report” (Atlanta, GA: October 2012),

[60] Angela Reid-Brown, “Permanency Roundtables in Juvenile Delinquency Cases,” Indiana Court Times, October 28, 2013,

[61] Douglas Thomas (ed.), “When Systems Collaborate,” 15.

[62] Juvenile Law Center, “Information Sharing,” accessed September 24, 2018.

[63] Juvenile Law Center and the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, “Models for Change: Information Sharing Toolkit.

[64] Clark County Juvenile Court, Programs and Youth Services.

[65] Education Development Center, “Developing a Juvenile Justice Information Sharing Agreement: Process and Pitfalls” (2013),

[66] Juvenile Law Center and the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, “Models for Change Information Sharing Toolkit – Second Edition,”

[67] Lourdes M. Rosado and Riya S. Shah, “Protecting Youth from Self-Incrimination when Undergoing Screening, Assessment and Treatment within the Juvenile Justice System,” Juvenile Law Center (2007), Appendix B-1,

[68] Ind. Code §  31-41-2-4 (2015).

[69] Wigg, et. al., “Guidebook,” 90.

[70] Denise Herz, et. al., “Addressing the Needs of Multi-System Youth: Strengthening the Connection between Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice,” 21-22, 49-50.

[71] Trina Osher, Luz Garay, Bruce Jennings, Dolores Jimerson, Susie Markus, and Ken Martinez, “Closing the Gap: Cultural Perspectives on Family-Driven Care” (Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health (TA Partnership), September 2011): 4,

[72] “Hampden County Massachusetts Dual Status Youth Initiative – Site Manual,” 10.

[73] “Dually Involved Youth Initiative: Improving Outcomes for Dually Involved Youth, Santa Clara County (Fall 2013):  40,

[74] “Dually Involved Youth Initiative: Improving Outcomes for Dually Involved Youth, Santa Clara County.