Careful data analysis might be able to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system, a pilot study shows. Officials in Los Angeles County used a screening assessment developed by the National Council on Crime & Delinquency to identify young people in the child welfare system and direct them into prevention services.
There is sometimes a perception that abused kids are good and that delinquents are bad. But when an abused kid commits a crime, he suddenly is seen by some as a dangerous miscreant. Obviously, system change is needed.
Kathy McNamara has played the roles of surrogate mother, mentor, big sister, coach, cheerleader, kindly counselor, confidante, inspiration and friend to her young charges. All the while, McNamara’s also served as their probation officer just outside Chicago in DuPage County, Ill. For 16 years now, she has worked on hundreds of the toughest of juvenile cases — those of so-called “dual-status youth,” kids entangled in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
Here and there, on the juvenile justice beat, you discover someone who goes so far beyond the call of duty you want to tell the world about that person. Kathy McNamara, a senior probation officer for juveniles, is one of those people. I first learned about McNamara, 45, while reporting on a JJIE story on dual-status youths.
So-called dual-status youth, those in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, present enormous challenges. Many of the children are chronic runaways who have suffered from severe physical or emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment. They typically come from troubled homes often beset by domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness.
Historically, the juvenile justice and other child-serving systems have not worked together. That’s starting to change, albeit slowly.
The complexities of dealing with dual-status kids notwithstanding, success stories show how breaking down barriers between the juvenile justice and child welfare systems can make all the difference in a child’s life.
Newton County is one of four sites in the nation chosen by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps to serve as a demonstration project — to show how the juvenile justice court can work with DFCS, other children-serving agencies and the community to identify dual status youth and get them the help they need.
BEMIDJI, Minn. — Way up in northwestern Minnesota, progress is being made within the Ojibwe tribes. Since September, the traditional divisions between the systems of juvenile justice and child welfare have begun to be erased.