Although research has oft-documented a maltreatment-delinquency link, the effect of involvement in-and timing of-child welfare system involvement on offending has received less attention. We examine whether the timing of child welfare involvement has differential effects on recidivism of deep-end juvenile offenders (youth who have been adjudicated delinquent by the court and placed in juvenile justice residential programs).
The current study uses a large, diverse sample of 12,955 youth completing juvenile justice residential programs between 1 January 2010 and 30 June 2013 in Florida (13 % female, 55 % Black, 11 % Hispanic). Additionally, we explore the direct effects of childhood traumatic events on delinquency, as well as their indirect effects through child welfare involvement using structural equation modeling.
The findings indicate that adverse childhood experiences fail to exert a direct effect on recidivism, but do exhibit a significant indirect effect on recidivism through child welfare involvement, which is itself associated with recidivism. This means that while having exposures to more types of childhood traumatic events does not, in and of itself, increase the likelihood of re-offending, effects of such experiences operate through child welfare placement.
Differences in the effects of maltreatment timing and of adverse childhood experiences are observed across sex and race/ethnicity subgroups. Across all racial subgroups, exposures to adverse childhood experiences have a significant effect on the likelihood of child welfare placement, yet child welfare placement exerts a significant effect on recidivism for White and Hispanic youth, but not for Black youth. Only Hispanic female and White male youth with overlapping child welfare and juvenile justice cases (open cases in both systems at the same time during the study period) were more likely to recidivate than their delinquent-only counterpart youth.
Crossover status (child welfare and juvenile justice involvement, whether prior or open cases) was essentially irrelevant with respect to the re-offending of Black youth completing juvenile justice residential programs.
The findings indicate the effects of exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and child welfare system and juvenile justice system involvement on re-offending are not uniform across subgroups of youth but that earlier child welfare involvement is more detrimental than concurrent child welfare system involvement when it does matter.
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- 1G4S Youth Services, LLC, 6302 Benjamin Rd., Suite 400, Tampa, FL, 33625, USA. Michael.Baglivio@us.g4s.com.
- 2John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th St., New York, NY, 10019, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Rd., GR31, Richardson, TX, 75080, USA. email@example.com.
- 4Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, 3300 Whitehaven St. NW, R. 5045, Washington, DC, 20007, USA. Shay.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 5G4S Youth Services, LLC, 6302 Benjamin Rd., Suite 400, Tampa, FL, 33625, USA. Katherine.Jackowski@us.g4s.com.
- 6Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2737 Centerview Drive, Tallahassee, FL, 32399, USA. Mark.Greenwald@djj.state.fl.us.
- 7Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2737 Centerview Drive, Tallahassee, FL, 32399, USA. Nathan.Epps@djj.state.fl.us.
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