Our Foster Youth Strategic Initiative seeks to ensure that youth who are aging out of the child welfare system become self-sufficient and thriving adults, paying special attention to high need sub-populations: youth who are involved in both the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems, sometimes called crossover youth. We recently funded a report, written by our partners University of Southern California’s Children’s Data Network and the California State University Los Angeles, entitled Crossover Youth: Los Angeles County Probation Youth with Previous Referrals to Child Protective Services, to learn about the outcomes for crossover youth in Los Angeles County. The report revealed that while 83 percent had referrals to child protective services, more than a third had a maltreatment report, and 20 percent had been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. While these outcomes are disheartening, the report also asked critical policy questions of Los Angeles County, like how can we ensure families referred to the child protective system are properly connected and engaged in community-based services when cases are not open?
We are pleased to share a recent motion, approved by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. On March 20, 2018, the Board approved a motion to create a multidisciplinary countywide system to keep foster youth out of the juvenile justice system— also ensuring that crossover youth are given the services and opportunities they need to thrive. This represents significant progress for those of us working to better outcomes for transition age foster youth.
It is especially encouraging to see policymakers reference reports funded by the philanthropic community, further illustrating the important relationship between research and policy. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas cited our 2011 report, speaking to the report’s data and how “coordinated, effective services [are] important to breaking the cycle of negative outcomes.” He further emphasized the importance of collaboration between foster care and the juvenile justice systems in meeting the needs of crossover youth:
“Many of these youth have been victims of serious trauma, and getting caught up in the justice system only traumatizes them further… Half of [crossover youth] in the County are struggling in school or not attending regularly. Too many may end up languishing in juvenile hall due to insufficient community-based placements. We can and must do better.”
We applaud our policymakers for prioritizing this high need population and identifying ways to improve our current systems. We look forward to our continued work together in providing pathways for foster youth to lead healthy and productive lives.