Maltreatment, Child Welfare, and Recidivism in a Sample of Deep-End Crossover Youth
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Although research has oft-documented a maltreatment–delinquency link, the effect of involvement in—and timing of—child welfare system involvement on offending has received less attention. We examine whether the timing of child welfare involvement has differential effects on recidivism of deep-end juvenile offenders (youth who have been adjudicated delinquent by the court and placed in juvenile justice residential programs). The current study uses a large, diverse sample of 12,955 youth completing juvenile justice residential programs between 1 January 2010 and 30 June 2013 in Florida (13 % female, 55 % Black, 11 % Hispanic). Additionally, we explore the direct effects of childhood traumatic events on delinquency, as well as their indirect effects through child welfare involvement using structural equation modeling. The findings indicate that adverse childhood experiences fail to exert a direct effect on recidivism, but do exhibit a significant indirect effect on recidivism through child welfare involvement, which is itself associated with recidivism. This means that while having exposures to more types of childhood traumatic events does not, in and of itself, increase the likelihood of re-offending, effects of such experiences operate through child welfare placement. Differences in the effects of maltreatment timing and of adverse childhood experiences are observed across sex and race/ethnicity subgroups. Across all racial subgroups, exposures to adverse childhood experiences have a significant effect on the likelihood of child welfare placement, yet child welfare placement exerts a significant effect on recidivism for White and Hispanic youth, but not for Black youth. Only Hispanic female and White male youth with overlapping child welfare and juvenile justice cases (open cases in both systems at the same time during the study period) were more likely to recidivate than their delinquent-only counterpart youth. Crossover status (child welfare and juvenile justice involvement, whether prior or open cases) was essentially irrelevant with respect to the re-offending of Black youth completing juvenile justice residential programs. The findings indicate the effects of exposure to adverse childhood experiences, and child welfare system and juvenile justice system involvement on re-offending are not uniform across subgroups of youth but that earlier child welfare involvement is more detrimental than concurrent child welfare system involvement when it does matter.
KeywordsMaltreatment Child welfare system Crossover youth Recidivism Serious youthful offenders
MB conceived of the project and its design, drafted a majority of the manuscript, participated in the design of study methodology, and participated in cleaning the data and creating appropriate measures. KW drafted a significant portion of the manuscript, participated in the design of study methodology, and performed the vast majority of statistical analyses. AP drafted significant portions of the manuscript, participated in the design of study methodology, consulted on statistical analysis, and coordinated editing of manuscript drafting. SB provided significant drafting of the manuscript, guided policy implications from study results and provided key insight into measurement and results from findings. KJ conceived of the research project and its design, drafted sections of the manuscript, provided editorial support, and participated in cleaning the data. MG provided both assistance with drafting of the manuscript, editorial support, insight into the juvenile and child welfare systems, procured the data, obtained approval for use of the data, and provided input into appropriate analysis of the data. NE cleaned the data, combined data from both juvenile justice and child welfare systems, was integral in the design of the primary measures of the study, and provided editorial support. All authors read, edited, and approved the final manuscript.
Conflicts of interest
The authors report no conflict of interests.
Approval for this project was acquired from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Institutional Review Board.
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