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Report Cites “Missed Opportunities” for MA Children in Detention

A new report says the Commonwealth is missing opportunities to reach out to young people in the child welfare system, because too many end up being funneled into juvenile detention. Courtesy: Citizens for Juvenile Justice
A new report says the Commonwealth is missing opportunities to reach out to young people in the child welfare system, because too many end up being funneled into juvenile detention. Courtesy: Citizens for Juvenile Justice
November 25, 2015

BOSTON - As families across the Commonwealth gather for Thanksgiving, a new report says too many children will spend the holiday in juvenile detention because they are not getting the support they need.

Naoka Carey, executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice, said the numbers in her organization's new report are startling. They show that children who start out in the child-welfare system, through no fault of their own, are highly likely to end up in the juvenile-justice system.

"When you look at kids who are in lockups with the Department of Youth Services," she said, "about 40 percent of them, right now, have an open case with the Department of Children and Families."

The report is called "Missed Opportunities" and the goal is preventing young people in child welfare from entering the juvenile-justice system. The report from Citizens for Juvenile Justice said 57 percent of boys and 59 percent of girls had their first Department of Children and Families intake between birth and the time they reached 5 years old.

Carey said the study shows there is a need to intervene when children are very young. A large number of children moved in and out of home placement, she said. One boy in the study moved 37 times. She said the kind of disruption can lead to trauma and behavioral issues.

"That's kind of normal if you've gone through some really traumatic experiences, and we need to do a better job of supporting kids," she said. "But, they still have a lot of potential. These are not kids who ... are inevitably going to end up in our system. If we support them, when they are still kids, we can really do a lot better job for them."

Carey said Massachusetts has been working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation-funded Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to design intervention programs and also to collect better data that can highlight how to prevent children from being funneled into juvenile detention.

The report is online at njjn.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA