For too long, the needs of female juvenile offenders have been virtually forgotten. But the growing numbers of delinquent girls demonstrate that our juvenile justice system can afford neither to neglect their needs nor to treat them as an afterthought.

In the past, most girls who came into contact with juvenile courts did so for nonviolent status offenses such as curfew violations and running away from home. Today, those trends are changing. Girls are entering the justice system at younger ages and for more violent offenses. Although girls still commit far fewer crimes than boys—they constitute about two out of eight juvenile offenders—violent crime has increased nearly four times as much among girls (16.5 percent) than among boys (4.5 percent) during the past decade.

This increase demands that we acknowledge the fact that girls travel different developmental pathways to delinquency than boys. Accordingly, programs rooted in their experiences are best suited to preventing and treating female delinquency. To assist communities in developing such programs, this report describes practical policy and program development processes and promising programs models.

The report also provides a profile of female juvenile offenders, the problems they present, their needs, and our need to address them. If we remember the lessons learned in these pages and apply them in our communities, female juvenile offenders will no longer be forgotten and their problems will be effectively addressed.

Shay Bilchik

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Guiding Principles for Promising
Female Programming
October 1998