JJIE: Pilot Program Giving Dual Status Youth the Trauma-Informed Care, Connections They Need

Imagine back to when you were a young teenager. What would it be like to be removed from your parents’ home? Your parents were hitting you and often weren’t taking care of you.

Child welfare officials placed you in a foster home where you felt lost. The foster mother was nice, but you didn’t want to be there and you felt like a guest. You go to school but you are not doing well. You don’t feel like the other kids accept you and you feel isolated. You are getting in trouble on a regular basis, which is causing more problems in your foster home.

One day you have an altercation at school and you just want to leave. The teacher is blocking the way out of the room and you push your way past her. You are arrested and brought to the police station and charged with aggravated battery to a teacher.

The police officer initially wants to send you home, but your foster mother refuses to pick you up. She tells your child welfare worker she is done with you. The worker tells the judge that she is going to look for other placements for you. You are placed in juvenile detention.

This scenario is not uncommon in our juvenile justice system. Child welfare youth involved in the juvenile justice system, or dual status youth, are more likely to be charged with a crime and more likely to be detained. Once detained, dual status youth will likely spend more time in custody.

Child welfare officials have a difficult time placing these youth because they are typically older with a history of multiple placements. On top of the usual teenage issues, they are likely to have mental health- and trauma-related issues.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and University of Illinois-Chicago, in collaboration with the Circuit Court of Cook County Juvenile Division, have a new pilot project designed to help address these issues.

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