Years after juvenile detention, adults struggle, study finds

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By Jeremy Loudenback

Children who have been admitted to a juvenile detention center often struggle with a range of issues years after being detained, according to results from a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The longitudinal study affords a rare look at how youth who experienced juvenile detention fared in terms of eight positive outcomes five and 12 years after detention.

The eight domains included the following: educational attainment, residential independence, gainful activity, desistance from criminal activity, mental health, abstaining from substance abuse, interpersonal functioning, and parenting responsibility.

A team of researchers from Northwestern University tracked more than 1,800 youth who were admitted to the Cook County Detention Center in Chicago from 1995 to 1998. The average of youth of these youth was about 15 years old.

In interviews both five and 12 years after detainment, the study attempted to determine if these youth had attained age-appropriate psychosocial outcomes in the years after detention, and how much these outcomes varied by race and sex.

According to analysis, only 21.9 percent of males and 54.7 percent of females had attained positive outcomes in the eight domains. Of all groups surveyed, African Americans were the least likely to achieve positive outcomes in the years after detention.

Robert Sampson, the Harvard sociologist who has written about both life-long trajectories of delinquent youth and spatial inequality in Chicago, wrote an editorial comment on the study in the same issue of JAMA Pediatrics. The long-term consequences of detention for delinquent youth, or “the juvenile equivalent of re-entry among ex-prisoners,” remains a topic of little research, according to Sampson.

“Juvenile detention has operated in the shadow of adult incarceration,” Sampson wrote.

In their study, the Northwestern researchers say that longitudinal studies of youth incarcerated in juvenile facilities have generally focused on recidivism, rather than on how youth adjust to life after returning to their communities. They argue that pediatric health care professionals have a role to play in promoting psychosocial health among these youth.

“To improve outcomes, pediatric health care professionals should recognize the importance of psychosocial health, partner with on-site psychosocial services in their practices, and facilitate access to services in the community,” the researchers wrote.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris carries message about child trauma to White House and back

Nadine Burke Harris

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

By Jeremy Loudenback

The efforts of pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris to address of trauma experienced early in life have vaulted her to national attention.

In September, Burke Harris earned recognition from the Heinz Foundation for her work to establish a system to screen and treat children who are dealing with toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse, neglect, poverty and violence. The annual Heinz Award honors five “exceptional Americans, for their creativity and determination in finding solutions to critical issues.” The prestigious Heinz Award for the Human Condition comes with a $250,000 prize.

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Juvenile transfers to adult court: A lingering outcome of the super-predator craze

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By John Kelly, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

Twenty years ago, in a speech at Keene State College in New Hampshire, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made a comment about juvenile crime. Discussing the need for a top-level fight against gangs that harkened the mob-busting of previous decades, Clinton told reporters that “they are not just gangs of kids anymore.”

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,’ ” Clinton continued. “No conscience, no empathy; we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

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Too young to say ‘I do’

Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last in New Jersey. Photo: Unchained at Last

Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained at Last

by Christie Renick, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

This summer, Virginia lawmakers passed a law preventing anyone under the age of 16 from marrying in the state.

Some would call this progress, but advocates fighting to end child marriage in the United States see it as a sobering reminder that adults can legally marry children in all 50 states.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), child marriage is “perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls,” and “marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights.”

Fraidy Reiss is the founder of Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that helps women and girls leave or avoid forced marriages, and advocates to end the practice of child marriage. She lived in an arranged marriage for more than a decade.

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Trauma-informed Uber?

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By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

As Los Angeles County mulls the idea of using ride-sharing services to escort foster youth to visitations with biological parents, some child-welfare experts wonder how such a service would be able to grapple with children with significant experiences of trauma and loss.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors members Sheila Kuehl and Mike Antonovich submitted a motion last week calling for improved family visitation, including the idea of exploring whether ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft or HopSkipDrive could transport children and family members to important family visits.

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