The following article on juvenile delinquency has three major objectives: First, it defines delinquency and discusses its measurement and extent; second, it reviews theory and risk factor data on causes of delinquency; third, it discusses current trends in juvenile justice intervention and delinquency prevention, including social worker involvement.
Jeffrey Shook and Sara Goodkind
This article is intended to describe the juvenile court and highlight key challenges facing the court and the juvenile legal system today. Social workers were instrumental in the creation and implementation of the juvenile court at the beginning of the 20th century and remain highly involved today. Understanding the juvenile court and its role in society is essential for the field. The article begins with an overview of the history of the juvenile court, focusing on its early decades and then three subsequent periods—1960–1980, 1980–2000, and 2000–2020. It then turns to the structure of the court and provides a brief description of its caseload before ending with a number of challenges facing the court.
Henrika McCoy and Emalee Pearson
Racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, more commonly known as disproportionate minority contact (DMC), are the overrepresentation, disparity, and disproportionate numbers of youth of color entering and moving deeper into the juvenile justice system. There has been some legislative attention to the issue since the implementation of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) and most recently with attempts in 2017 to reauthorize the Act. Originally focused solely on confinement, it became clear by 1988 there was disproportionality at all decision points in the juvenile justice system, and the focus changed to contact. DMC most commonly is known to impact Black and Hispanic youth, but a closer look reveals how other youth of color are also impacted. Numerous factors have been previously identified that create DMC, but increasingly factors such as zero-tolerance in schools and proactive policing in communities are continuing to negatively impact reduction efforts. Emerging issues indicate the need to consider society’s demographic changes, the criminalization of spaces often occupied by youth of color, and gender differences when creating and implementing strategies to reduce DMC.
Paul H. Stuart
Roger Nash Baldwin (1884–1981) was a social worker and progressive reformer. In 1914 he co-authored the first juvenile justice textbook. Jailed in 1918 for refusing to register for the draft, he went on to found the American Civil Liberties Union.
Runaways, throwaways, and homeless youths have always been present in the United States. In recent decades, however, society has become more aware of the problems they face as the problems have become more severe. The effectiveness of new approaches to helping these youths is yet to be determined.
Wendy Haight and Min Hae Cho
“Crossover youth” are maltreated youth who have engaged in delinquency. They are of particular concern to child welfare, juvenile justice, and other professionals because of their risks for problematic developmental outcomes. Effective interventions that promote more positive developmental trajectories require an understanding of the various pathways from maltreatment to delinquency. A growing body of research identifies potential risk and protective processes for maltreated youth crossing over into delinquency at ecological levels ranging from the micro to the macro. Most scholarship, however, is not developmental and provides little insight into how children’s emerging capacities relate to their abilities to actively respond to risk or protective processes. Solutions to crossing over are likely to be found in interventions that simultaneously address risk and protective processes across multiple ecological levels and across development. Emerging research suggests that the Crossover Youth Practice Model is one such promising intervention for improving outcomes for maltreated youth.