“Crossover Youth”: The Intersection of Child Welfare & Juvenile Justice

Crossover youth is more than the latest buzzword in the often jargon-filled lexicon of juvenile justice. Instead, the term reflects a growing understanding of the dynamic between child abuse, neglect and delinquency. This population of young people has contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Addressing child welfare is challenging enough, let alone when joined with deeper problems of delinquency. Abused young people often carry scars of trauma and pain, which can inform delinquent behavior that leads to subsequent contact with the juvenile justice system. However, the complex challenges and needs of crossover youth often prove too much for each system alone to address.

Experts Offer Strategies for Preventing Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Crossover

“We knew the pathway existed,” Shay Bilchick said during the opening of Preventing Youth from Crossing Over Between the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems, a webinar held Wednesday by the National Training & Technical Assistance Center, a program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. As a prosecutor working the family court circuits in Florida, Bilchik — now the founder and director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute — noted an apparent connection between child abuse and neglect and delinquency cases, referring to such crossover youth as a “challenging” population. 

Shortly after Bilchik joined the Public Policy Institute in 2007, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Casey Family Programs worked together to create the Crossover Youth Practice Model. This model stems from the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Integration Breakthrough Series Collaborative, developed in the mid-1990s by the Associates in Process Improvement, Casey Family Programs and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. According to Bilchik, certain methods, policies and practices can “interrupt the trajectory” of crossover between child welfare and juvenile justices systems. Serving as the webinar’s moderator, he introduced three speakers with extensive experience in “crossover prevention.”

“These young people are our young people,” said CJJR Program Manager Macon Stewart. “Prevention is a collective responsibility.”

Stewart said that crossover youth entails three categories of juveniles; those that have experienced some level of maltreatment and delinquency — typically referred to simply as “crossover youth” — as well as dually-involved youth and dually-adjudicated youth.

Wealth of Research from Center for Juvenile Justice Reform

Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, led by Director Shay Bilchik, has published a number of research studies that tackle a wide variety of juvenile justice issues.  We’ve highlighted a few of the best below.  Be sure to check out the Center’s website for many more resources. Improving the Effectiveness of Juvenile Justice Programs: A New Perspective on Evidence-Based Practice
Addressing the Unmet Educational Needs of Children and Youth in the Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems
Supporting Youth In Transition to Adulthood:  Lessons Learned from Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Racial and Ethnic Disparity and Disproportionality in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: A Compendium
Bridging Two Worlds: Youth Involved in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems, A Policy Guide for Improving Outcomes

Detention education reform report

Children in the juvenile justice system are more likely to have learning disabilities and behavior disorders, according to researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.  They reviewed state programs to educate these children and found that agencies often don’t work together. As a result, there is “duplication, fragmentation and the diffusion of responsibility” that prevents kids in the system from getting the education they need to be successful when they get out.   Some conclusions of their study:

Early education is essential. Quality education services are critical for successful
development of all youth. If outcomes matter, they must be measured. Support services are needed to help some youth
succeed.