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Handle With Care: Serving the Mental Health Needs of Young Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
124 pages
This report presents findings from a year-long investigation into the scope of mental health concerns and services in the juvenile justice system.
The report documents the pervasiveness of mental health problems among youth in general and young offenders in particular. The report explains why parents may be forced to surrender their children to the juvenile court because they cannot receive assistance with mental health problems anywhere else. It shows how poverty, race, gender, and sexual orientation may block young offenders from accessing mental health services. In addition to exposing the myriad systemic shortcomings and lack of effective, integrated mental health assessment and treatment services for juvenile offenders, this report also profiles effective programs of mental health service delivery for young offenders. Treatment methods that focus on rebuilding a child's family structure while ensuring that he/she receives intensive therapy have reduced recidivism among young offenders by as much as 80 percent. Moreover, there are early detection, prevention, and intervention efforts that reach children before emotional distress turns into mental health problem or a mental illness, and before children engage in dangerous or delinquent activity. The continuum of care recommended encompasses prevention programs; screening and assessment opportunities; community-based intervention and treatment programs that address and take into account the many factors related to mental health disorders; and institutional care and aftercare that provide appropriate treatment for youth who must be confined for their own safety and for public safety. Recommendations are offered for the U.S. President, the U.S. Congress, the administration of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, State advisory groups, States and localities, juvenile justice facilities, mental health professionals and community, communities and families, youth, and the American public. Glossary, resource list, and a 95-item bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 2000