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Knowledge Brief: Is There a Link between Child Welfare and Disproportionate Minority Contact in Juvenile Justice?

Published Dec 1, 2011, Models for Change Research Initiative

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African-American children are represented in foster care and other child welfare placements at a rate more than twice their representation in the U.S. child population. Like others in the child welfare system they tend to be victims of physical abuse and neglect—the very children who are at increased risk of juvenile delinquency. What implications does this have for disproportionate minority contact (DMC) in juvenile justice? This study looked at whether the population of youth moving between child welfare and juvenile justice contributes to DMC in juvenile justice. The researchers also looked at whether a child’s status as a “foster care youth” influences judicial dispositions, thereby increasing the over representation of African Americans at deeper ends of the juvenile justice system. The findings suggest that the child welfare system is a significant pathway for African-American youths involved with the juvenile justice system.

This brief is one in a series describing new knowledge and innovations emerging from Models for Change, a multi-state juvenile justice initiative. Models for Change is accelerating movement toward a more effective, fair, and developmentally sound juvenile justice system by creating replicable models that protect community safety, use resources wisely, and improve outcomes for youths. The briefs are intended to inform professionals in juvenile justice and related fields, and to contribute to a new national wave of juvenile justice reform.