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Examples of Collaborations Serving Crossover Youth

Vermont

Having a unified family court with all of our family proceedings—including child protection, delinquency, divorce, domestic violence protection proceedings and parentage—in the same court gives us an enormous advantage in identifying crossover youth like Mary and John. In Vermont, the judge who handles their delinquency petition will have full access to all other files in the family court related to their families. If there are other open family cases, the family will have the same judge for all cases. In addition, we treat truancy and running away from home as grounds for a Child in Need of Care and Supervision petition rather than as status offenses.

One recent innovation in Vermont that helps to identify risk factors associated with this population is the use of the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI) assessment tool for all youth who are charged with a delinquency. One of our 14 family courts has gone so far as to use the YASI pre-screen to inform decisions about whether to refer the youth to diversion. We are in the process of trying to get funding to do this statewide. We are also using YASI in some courts to screen runaway youth and truants. This is currently done on a case-by-case basis when the circumstances warrant. An instrument like YASI can be very helpful in identifying crossover youth and informing decision makers regarding appropriate services.

Tucson, AZ

Although we do not have a unified family court, we follow a policy of “one judge, one family, one youth” in juvenile court, meaning that the same judge hears both the delinquency and dependency cases. We combine delinquency and dependency hearings to the extent possible (e.g., conducting probation reviews at the same time as our dependency reviews), and probation officers and case managers are expected to attend all hearings in both proceedings. We have also implemented a protocol with the family bench to identify and consolidate any family case with the related dependency case in juvenile court.

Coordination of services is a key issue in these cases. Treatment and service planning and monitoring for youth who are both dependent and delinquent is accomplished through child and family team meetings. These meetings are convened and facilitated by our behavioral health providers, with participation of the youth, his family members, the child protective services case manager, the juvenile probation officer, the CASA volunteer and sometimes school personnel. Both child protective services and the behavioral health providers have liaisons co-located at the juvenile court center who help the court and probation officers to troubleshoot issues in particular cases. While our data systems cannot talk to each other, the stakeholders regularly share hard-copy reports and other information. CPS case managers and probation officers are expected to determine at the beginning of a case if a youth has involvement in the other system so that the cases are coordinated.

Portland, OR

We have a unified family court and have operated under a “one judge, one family, one youth” policy for years on the dependency side of our court. We have begun to extend this policy to our delinquent youth by having the judge of the dependency case also become judge of the delinquency case. It is our expectation that child welfare caseworkers and juvenile probation officers will attend all hearings for a child in those instances where we are not able to combine the delinquency and dependency hearings.

When the decision is made not to file a delinquency petition for low-level offenses, a warning letter is sent to the parent of the youth. Evaluation of this process has shown that it is effective to prevent any subsequent delinquency referral for the large majority of youths. The juvenile department has now agreed to identify whether youth who are appropriate candidates for a warning letter are also in foster care. In that circumstance, the juvenile department will send a copy of the warning letter to both the foster parent and the child’s caseworker. Child welfare, in turn, has agreed to take steps to offer appropriate services to the youth to prevent any further involvement with the delinquency system.

We have been operating a wraparound initiative for a number of years. For every delinquent or dependent youth, a coordinated single plan of care is developed that addresses the youth’s needs and the mandates of all involved systems. This practice model has proven successful in stabilizing foster care placements, increasing family involvement, decreasing delinquencies and improving outcomes for dependent children.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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