Vol. 18, No. 2 May 2014
Foster Care, Delinquent Behavior, and Juvenile Justice
It’s not a happy fact, but resource parents and child welfare professionals need to know: experiencing the trauma of abuse and neglect puts children at greater risk for getting into trouble with the law. Victims of child maltreatment are more likely than other children to be arrested as juveniles (27% vs. 17%) (CWLA, 2002).
Those who enter foster care are at even greater risk of juvenile justice involvement. Ryan and Testa (2005) found that about 16% of children placed into substitute care experience at least one delinquency petition, compared to 7% of maltreatment victims not removed from their families.
If they do become involved with the juvenile justice system, youth in foster care may face harsher treatment. Ryan and colleagues (2007) found youth whose delinquency cases originated in foster care were less likely to receive probation than youth not in foster care.
Now please understand: most children in foster care never break the law. But they do seem to be at greater risk of doing so than other children.
Given this, foster parents and kinship caregivers naturally want to know two things:
This issue tries to give you clear, helpful answers to these and other questions about the intersection of foster care, delinquent behavior, and juvenile justice.
Our goal, as always, is to equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to achieve the best outcomes possible for the families and children you care so much about.