On September 29, 2015, Citizens for Juvenile Justice released a policy report, Missed Opportunities: Preventing Youth in the Child Welfare System from Entering the Juvenile Justice System. The report describes the role that trauma from adverse experiences can play in the learning and behavior challenges that are associated with increased risk for juvenile delinquency among children in the child welfare system. The report also highlights Massachusetts’ Safe and Supportive Schools law as a policy that has potential for helping to prevent students in the child welfare system from entering the juvenile justice system by fostering the creation of stable and supportive school communities. The following is an excerpt from this new report.
As stated in the report ‘Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: Two Sides of the Same Coin,’ “[y]oung people living in stable communities with safe schools, access to health care, and supportive adult and peer relationships are more likely to thrive. Those lacking these and other protective factors risk ‘crossing over’ from the child welfare to the juvenile justice and other system of care.” This observation about the importance of stable and supportive communities to help multi-system youth applies just as aptly to the “community” that exists inside of schools. As part of its commitment to maintain stabilization in children’s lives whenever possible, the Department of Children and Families has made it a priority to do whatever possible to allow children involved in the child welfare system to remain in their current school. This is an incredibly important initiative that will benefit children involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Along those lines, the way that schools manage children experiencing distress makes a big difference in the outcomes for these children. The culture within a school building, where children spend significant portions of their lives, can go a long way toward either buffering or exacerbating the adverse impacts that often result from traumatic experiences. The Safe and Supportive Schools statute (MGL c. 69, § 1P), signed into law in August 2014, is one of the first laws in the country that attempts to translate this critical insight about the importance of school culture into actual policy and practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The law holds tremendous promise for multi-system youth and all young people who endure adverse childhood experiences.
Click here to read the entire report.