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Intersection of Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems

A product of the Model Programs Guide
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Youths involved in both the juvenile justice system (because of delinquent behavior) and the child welfare system (because of maltreatment ) are often referred to as “dual system” or “dually involved” youth. They share many of the same risk factors and other characteristics as youths involved in just one of these systems; however, this population tends to face a greater number of these risk factors, more complex risk factors, and fewer protective factors (Dierkhising et al., 2019; Herz, Ryan, and Bilchik, 2010; Kim et al., 2020; Lee and Villagrana, 2015).

There are several interventions that have been shown to prevent or reduce delinquency of youths involved in the juvenile justice system, and others that have been shown to prevent or reduce the impact of child maltreatment for youths in the child welfare system (Carey et al., 2010; Chaffin et al., 2004; Cohen et al., 2004; MacKenzie and Farrington, 2015; Prinz et al., 2009). However, interventions designed specifically for youths who have been involved in both systems are less common. In addition, dual-system youths are often unrecognized because of challenges in information sharing and cross-system collaboration (Herz, Ryan, and Bilchik, 2010; Vidal et al., 2019), making implementation of interventions challenging.

This literature review focuses on the intersection of the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems. Information is provided on the characteristics of both systems, predictors of crossover from one system to the other, characteristics of dual-status youth, progress toward and challenges in serving dual-status youth, and outcomes of interventions. There are several terms to describe this population that are used throughout this literature review. Crossover youth is a general category that describes youths who have experienced some form of maltreatment and who engage in delinquent behaviors, regardless of their involvement in the systems, whereas terms such as dual status, dual system, dual contact, dually involved, dually identified, dually adjudicated, and multisystem describe different ways youths interact with both the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems (a full discussion of these terms is provided below).


Last Update: May 2021