Juvenile Justice System

Children who come to the attention of the juvenile justice system are a challenging and underserved population. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources to help juvenile justice professionals understand and provide trauma-focused services to these youth.

We invite you to share these fact sheets and other resources with your juvenile justice partners, community leaders, policy makers, teachers, parents, and families. For more information contact Jane Halladay Goldman, director of the Service Systems Program.

Page Contents:

Resources for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Professionals

The NCTSN National Juvenile Probation Officer Survey (2017) (PDF)

Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System (2016) (PDF)
Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System (B&W Version)
This resource was created by mental health clinicians, juvenile justice professionals, researchers, and family members, to help programs who work with justice-involved youth better understand the steps they can take to recognize and respond to the trauma-related needs of youth, family members, and staff.

Think Trauma
This training provides an overview for juvenile justice staff of how to work towards creating a trauma-informed juvenile justice residential setting. Creating a trauma-informed setting is a process that requires not only knowledge acquisition and behavioral modification, but also cultural and organizational paradigm shifts, and ultimately policy and procedural change at every level of the facility. 

Think Trauma is a PowerPoint-based training curriculum including four modules that can be implemented back-to-back in a single all-day training or in four consecutive training sessions over the course of several weeks or even months. Each module takes approximately one to two hours, depending on the size of the trainee group, and whether you elect to implement all of training materials and activities. It contains six case studies of representative youth who’ve been involved with the juvenile justice system.

Victimization and Juvenile Offending (2016) (PDF)
This resource summarizes research exploring the high rates of adolescent victimization and the potential consequences, including delinquency and future violence.  It presents strategies for short-circuiting the cycle of victimization and subsequent violence.

Assessing Exposure to Psychological Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress in the Juvenile Justice Population (2014) (PDF)
This factsheet explores the importance, clinical considerations and approaches to assessing for psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress with youth in the juvenile justice population.  It addresses challenges that are unique to assessment within the juvenile justice environment.

Trauma-Focused Interventions for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (2014) (PDF)
Due to exposure to traumatic events, many youth in the juvenile justice system have developed symptoms of traumatic stress.  This factsheet explores the role of pretreatment assessment, identifies important components of trauma-focused interventions, and discusses the treatment of co-occurring disorders as well as family- and group-based interventions that may be effective with youth involved with the juvenile justice system.

Trauma among Girls in the Juvenile Justice System (2014) (PDF)
This fact sheet explores research on the growing number of girls in the juvenile justice system, the high rates of exposure to violence among these girls and the potential consequences of that exposure, and the special challenges and obligations this poses for juvenile justice facilities and programs.

Testifying in Court about Trauma: How to Prepare
Offers guidance to clinicians called upon to testify as an expert witness for a client’s court case. From understanding a subpoena, confidentially, and the therapist-client privilege to preparing yourself, your client, and his/her caregivers for your court appearance, this fact sheet lays out ethical considerations, describes how to navigate conversations with your consumers, and gives you self-care tips to use for a court appearance.

Testifying in Court about Trauma: The Court Hearing
7-page fact sheet to help those preparing for a court hearing. In addition to a case example, it defines legal terms, delineates the types of cases in which clinician testimony might be required, explains the roles of “expert” witness and “fact” witness, describes how to testify effectively (with specific talking points), charts behaviors traumatized children may display and possible contributing facts from a trauma perspective, tells your rights as a witness, presents a checklist to use prior to the hearing day, and gives self-care tips for managing anxiety during the hearing.

Testifying in Court about Trauma: Following the Hearing
This last fact sheet in this series focuses on follow-through, for clinicians, clients, and their caregivers after the court process. Because testifying in court can be a difficult and stressful experience for clients and their caregivers, it is important for the clinician to follow-up with them, to give them the opportunity to ask questions, and to provide support. It is also essential for clinicians to be aware that testifying can be indirectly traumatizing and that they can seek out strategies for the prevention of secondary traumatic stress.

Trauma in the Lives of Gang-Involved Youth: Tips for Volunteers and Community Organizations (2009) (PDF)
For youth who have been traumatized, gangs can offer an apparent sense of safety, control, and structure that is often missing from their lives. But gang involvement is also a risk factor for interpersonal and other traumas. This fact sheet defines traumatic stress, explains why trauma is so prevalent among gang-involved youth, and provides tips for community organizations and volunteers on working with this population.

Your Child and Gangs: What You Need to Know about Trauma - Tips for Parents (2009) (PDF)
Individual reactions to trauma vary dramatically. What is devastating to one child may be less so for another. A youth's subjective response to a traumatic event depends upon a number of factors, such as individual personality, coping style, previous trauma, cultural background, and environment. This fact sheet defines traumatic stress, explains the appeal of gang involvement for traumatized youth, and offers information for parents on helping their children cope.

Current Issues and New Directions in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems, Brief Series
This collection of Briefs written by experts invited to the NCTSN Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable, address topics essential to creating trauma-informed Juvenile Justice Systems. These Briefs are intended to elevate the discussion of key elements that intersect with trauma and are critical to raising the standard of care for children and families involved with the juvenile justice system.

In Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Roundtable: Current Issues and New Directions in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF),  Carly B. Dierkhising, Susan Ko, and Jane Halladay Goldman, staff at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, discuss the Juvenile Justice Roundtable event, describe the current issues and essential elements of a trauma-informed JJ system, and outline possible new directions for the future.

In Trauma-Informed Assessment and Intervention (2013) (PDF), Patricia Kerig, Professor at the University of Utah, discusses how trauma-informed screening and assessment and evidence-based treatments play integral roles in supporting traumatized youth, explores the challenges of implementing and sustaining these practices, and highlights practice examples for integrating them into a justice setting.

In The Role of Family Engagement in Creating Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems (2013) (PDF), Liane Rozzell, founder of Families and Allies of Virginia Youth, discusses the importance of partnering with families, explores strategies for doing so, and emphasizes ways that justice settings expand their outreach to supportive caregivers by broadening their definition of family.

In Cross-System Collaboration (2013) (PDF) , Macon Stewart, faculty at the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), outlines practice examples for continuity of care and collaboration across systems, a vital activity for youth involved in multiple service systems, drawing from the CJJR’s Crossover Youth Practice Model.

In Trauma and the Environment of Care in Juvenile Institutions (2013) (PDF), Sue Burrell, staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, outlines specific areas to target in order to effectively implement this essential element, including creating a safe environment, protecting against re-traumatization, and behavior management.

In Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System: A Legacy of Trauma (2013) (PDF), Clinton Lacey, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation, outlines the historical context of racial disparities and highlights how systems can move forward to reduce these racial disparities, including by framing the issue so that practical and pro-active discussion can move beyond assigning blame.

Screening and Assessment in the Juvenile Justice System Speaker Series
This series describes the utility of screening and assessment for trauma in juvenile justice settings, specific instruments that are used or can be used in juvenile justice settings, how to best utilize data derived from screening and assessment, and recommendations for agencies and practitioners interested in implementing trauma-informed screening and assessment.

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Resources for Judges and Attorneys

Trauma: What Child Welfare Attorneys Should Know (2017) (PDF)

NCTSN Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed Judge (2013) (PDF)

Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System: For Judges and Attorneys (2011) (PDF)
This resource is part of a series of factsheets developed from the Birth Parent Subcommittee of the Child Welfare Committee. They highlight the importance of understanding the serious consequences that trauma histories can have for birth parents and the subsequent potential impact on their parenting. This particular resource was specifically developed for the audience of judges and attorneys. Click here to access the Birth Parents with Trauma Histories series.

Helping Traumatized Children: Tips for Judges (2009) (PDF)
This fact sheet for judges and other court personnel outlines the impact of trauma on children's development, beliefs, and behaviors. It is designed to help professionals in the juvenile justice and family court system become more effective in addressing the unique needs and challenges of the traumatized children and adolescents they work with.

Juvenile and Family Court Journal: Special Editions on Child Trauma
In partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), members of the Network contributed to two issues of the Juvenile and Family Court Journal devoted to child trauma. Articles in the spring 2006 and fall 2008 editions of the journal inform judges and other members of the juvenile and family court systems about issues they should consider when working with youth who have been exposed to trauma. Both issues can be ordered from NCJFCJ.

Service Systems Brief (vol 2, no 2): Judges and Child Trauma: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network/National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges Focus Groups (2008) (PDF)
This NCTSN Service Systems Brief reports the results of focus groups conducted with members of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). The Network conducted the focus groups in order to understand how knowledgeable juvenile and family court judges are about child trauma and to identify ways to work with NCJFCJ to promote education on the issue.

Ten Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know About Trauma and Delinquency (2010) (PDF)
This technical assistance bulletin highlights crucial fact that juvenile court judges should know so that they can best meet the needs of traumatized children who come into their system. A collaboration between the NCTSN and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, this publication was funded by the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Additional Resources

Testifying in Court for Child-Parent Psychotherapy Providers: Helping the Court Understand the Parent, Child, and Relationship

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