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Juvenile Justice Practitioners'Toolkit

A toolkit for practitioners in California

Overview

Toolkit authored by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and Bay Area Legal Aid

Youth who come into contact with juvenile probation and the delinquency court often have needs across multiple systems, including foster care, health care, behavioral health, education, housing, and social services. With so many interconnected and moving pieces, it can be difficult for any agency to possess the full breadth of knowledge, expertise, and capacity necessary to navigate the funding and service entitlements for justice-involved youth. The goal of this Juvenile Justice Practitioners’ Toolkit is to provide a starting point for agencies to begin exploring the myriad entitlements and funding streams available to these youth. It is our hope that this toolkit will also be a starting point for increased cross-system partnerships through which multiple agencies and community organizations can collaboratively make critical decisions about and along with justice-involved and their families.

Many resources and funding streams discussed throughout the Juvenile Justice Practitioners’ Toolkit can be accessed by youth outside of the juvenile justice system. Youth with juvenile justice system involvement almost always interact with multiple systems (e.g., social services, education, healthcare, behavioral healthcare, child welfare) and consequently are often eligible for various services, entitlements, and funding streams that exist outside of the juvenile justice system. Helping youth access those entitlements and services through other systems might mean that youth have shorter probation stays or do not need to be involved in the juvenile justice system at all. When the juvenile justice system does take the lead, programming and funding should generally be targeted to the highest needs youth and follow evidence-based practices when possible.

The Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile justice system differs in many ways from the adult justice system beginning with its guiding philosophy. While the purpose of the adult system may vary between punishment, containment, deterrence, and rehabilitation, the juvenile justice system has historically been predominantly focused on rehabilitation through education, treatment, and services, and a focus on family supports. Due in part to this philosophical difference, the juvenile court uses terms and concepts that are different from those used the adult criminal system.

The juvenile justice system differs in many ways from the adult justice system beginning with its guiding philosophy. While the purpose of the adult system may vary between punishment, containment, deterrence, and rehabilitation, the juvenile justice system has historically been predominantly focused on rehabilitation through education, treatment, and services, and a focus on family supports. Due in part to this philosophical difference, the juvenile court uses terms and concepts that are different from those used the adult criminal system.

In 2015, there were 72,000 juveniles arrested in California, with 58,000 of them referred to probation.[1] Though county probation departments have a range of referral options for arrested youth, including diversion, informal probation, and closing the case at intake, half of the probation referrals result in the filing of a juvenile court petition. Nearly two-thirds of the cases referred for a juvenile court petition result in the youth being adjudicated delinquent and becoming a ward of the delinquency court. Nearly two-thirds of youths who are declared wards are placed in the community, either in their own home, in a relative’s home, or in a foster care home. Disaggregated disposition data shows that white youth are more likely to receive informal probation, while African American and Hispanic youth are more likely to become wards of the delinquency court.[2] Over two-thirds of all juvenile felony arrests are for nonviolent crimes.[3]

By the time they become justice-involved, youth on probation may have already experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, domestic violence, and exploitation. They may be living in poverty with unreliable family support and limited family resources. Justice-involved youth may suffer academic deficits and a lack of work experience or vocational training. These levels of personal trauma may result in behavioral and mental health issues. In order to help youth achieve their rehabilitative goals, it is important to facilitate connections between probation departments and other responsible systems of care in the youth’s community, including child welfare agencies, school systems, and public and private mental health services.

The Toolkit is divided into four parts:

Placement Narratives

Overviews are provided of three community-based placement and supervision orders for youth in the juvenile justice system: (1) General Supervision, (2) Probation Foster Care, and (3) Extended Foster Care.

Local Spotlights

Five case studies highlight probation partnerships in counties across California that are connecting justice-involved youth to comprehensive services. These local examples feature collaborations in Alameda, Los Angeles, Marin, Riverside and San Francisco Counties.

Special Populations

There are descriptions of four special populations of youth with specific needs who are being served within the juvenile justice system: (1) youth with disabilities and high-level mental health needs, (2) pregnant and parenting teens, (3) homeless youth, and (4) commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) survivors.

Funding Streams

Summaries pull together nearly 40 state and federal funding streams across multiple systems that include: (1) placement and housing, (2) health, mental health, and education, and (3) education and employment. These funds can be leveraged to pay for comprehensive services for juvenile justice-involved youth.

[1]: Office of the Attorney General, “Juvenile Justice in California 2015,“ available at https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/cjsc/publications/misc/jj15/jj15.pdf, at iv.

[2]: Id. at 25.

[3]: Id. at 4.