Crossover Cases: Children and Youth Involved in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems

Judge Dean LewisJudge J. Dean Lewis (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Summary: Crossover cases vary in definition but share several commonalities: these are challenging cases which require collaboration and coordination among all entities involved to achieve positive outcomes for youth.


Courts often refer to crossover cases as those involving children and youth who have a case in the dependency as well as the delinquency court. Crossover cases may also include children and youth who have committed a status offense or a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS) offense. In some states, the court with jurisdiction of dependency cases is the same court that has jurisdiction of delinquency, status offense and CHINS cases. In other states, there are two court systems involved with different judges having jurisdiction. These are challenging cases.

Collaboration and coordination are critical. It is imperative that public agencies, attorneys, judges and CASA volunteers involved in crossover cases share information and resources with a goal of establishing one comprehensive dispositional court order.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has published several documents that are critical to understanding best practices in each of the court systems involved in crossover cases:

Resource Guildelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

Adoption and Permanency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Juvenile Delinquency Cases  

In addition, NCJFCJ has established model courts to implement the recommendations of these publications and develop best practices that result in successful outcomes.

This issue of The Judges’ Page endeavors to review multiple aspects of handling the challenge of crossover cases. 


Mary V. Mentaberry, executive director of NCJFCJ, informs readers of NCJFCJ’s role in the development of principles, strategies, guidelines and best practices for dealing effectively with cross-over cases

Judge Douglas F. Johnson, President of NCJFCJ, challenges us to follow the mantra of the Resource Guidelines: “One family—One judge”

Judge Ernestine Gray, president of the National CASA Association, explains the important leadership role the judge plays in coordinating court systems involved with crossover youth and reminds us of the critical role of the CASA/GAL volunteer

Judges Escher, Davenport and Waller, members of NCJFCJ’s Cross-Over Committee,  share the methods three courts have used to coordinate cases involving crossover youth and outline ten easy steps that all courts can take to properly manage these cases

Judge Karen Adam shares the details of Pima County, Arizona’s, successful approach to coordination of crossover cases.

Jessica Pearce and Shawn Marsh, of the Juvenile and Family Law Department at NCJFCJ, discuss resiliency, risks and protective factors that need to be addressed in crossover cases.

Shay Bilchik and Judge Michael Nash note the connection between childhood maltreatment and delinquency, noting that judges and court administrators play a critical role in coordinating crossover cases to ensure successful outcomes.

Members of the Research and Reform for Children in Court, Inc. explain that in order to break intergenerational cycles of abuse and neglect, courts should engage in evidence-based practices, determining through scientific research those interventions that consistently improve client outcomes.

Judges Meurer and Hathaway share their experiences with CASA/GAL volunteers as invaluable partners in moving crossover children more quickly to safe, permanent homes.

Cynthia Chauvin, director of CASA Jefferson, relates how her program expanded volunteer training to address the unique problems inherent in crossover cases. The CASA/GAL volunteer often becomes the only voice for the dependent child’s best interests when others in the court system view the child as a delinquent.

Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, executive director of Chaves County CASA Program, relates the value of the CASA/GAL volunteer as seen through the eyes of a crossover youth who turned his life into a success story.

Howard A. Davidson, director of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, shares the ABA Commission on Youth At Risk’s call for reform in the handling of crossover cases.

Paula Campbell, information specialist with the NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department, provides web resources on dual-jurisdiction youth.

Please note: In November 2010, we augmented this issue with the following articles:

  • Kathryn Woser Page, mental health coordinator with Canal Alliance, submitted an article about the implications for the juvenile justice system of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders .
  • Kathryn Kelly, project director of the FAS/FAE Legal Issues Resource Center, University of Washington, wrote about the importance of early identification of FASD in this article, republished from the February 2005 Judges' Page newsletter.

Thanks to the Permanency Planning for Children Department for taking the lead in securing most of the articles for this issue of The Judges’ Page.

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