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Introduction to CWLA Juvenile Justice Division

Joining Forces To Break the Link between Child Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency

Numerous studies show the connection between child abuse and neglect and later delinquent behavior. In one of the most detailed studies of the issue to date, research sponsored by the National Institute of Justice found that childhood abuse increased the odds of future delinquency and adult criminality overall by 40 percent. Being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent, as an adult by 38 percent, and for a violent crime by 38 percent (Widom,1992). Each year approximately three million children are reported as maltreated or abused.

In response to these findings CWLA has established a juvenile justice education and policy initiative, "Joining Forces to Break the Link between Child Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency". Through this initiative CWLA will work to better serve children and families within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems by promoting a positive and integrated approach to meeting their needs. Supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, the initiative's ultimate goals are reducing the incidence of juvenile delinquency nationwide and reducing reliance on incarceration by advocating for appropriate least restrictive placement for juvenile offenders.

To promote awareness of the links between child welfare and juvenile justice among child welfare professionals and the public, CWLA staff will collect, analyze, and disseminate related information; monitor and analyze public policy; and promote the adoption of proven prevention and treatment services. Best practice for children and youth that are at risk of entering or are currently involved in the juvenile justice system will be highlighted through conferences, training and technical assistance, and the development of guidelines and standards.

CWLA will work with its nearly 800 public and private member agencies to expand services to children, youths, and families involved in the juvenile justice system-a group with many unmet needs, yet few advocates.

CWLA will support the expansion of services by:
  • Providing members with the most up-to-date, comprehensive information through a new CWLA Juvenile Justice Information Storehouse, including information on best practices and effective programs and the publication of related newsletters, bulletins, and monographs.

  • Convening forums and conferences for key community constituents working with youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

  • Developing practical strategies for successful collaboration between the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems.

  • Providing on-site consultation, technical assistance, evaluation, and training, including cross-training child welfare and juvenile justice professionals at the management and staff levels.

  • Developing standards for the juvenile justice field, particularly in the areas of greatest overlap with child welfare.

  • Creating and maintaining a juvenile justice page on the CWLA website.

  • Expanding CWLA membership to include public and private juvenile justice agencies, judges, prosecutors, public defenders and other juvenile justice practitioners.
In order to move this initiative forward, CWLA has established a juvenile justice division. The division will be advised by the National Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice on Juvenile Justice comprised of individuals who represent a broad range of perspectives. The committee will include representatives of CWLA's public and private nonprofit member agencies; state public and private juvenile justice agencies; national organizations concerned with juvenile justice and behavioral health; youth; judges; prosecutors; public defenders, and other juvenile justice practitioners.

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