One of the troubling trends that has become pervasive across the United States during the past decade is the increasing involvement of juvenile females in the juvenile justice system. The National Center for Juvenile Justice reported that between 1992 and 1996, the number of arrests of female juveniles for violent crime index offenses increased by 25 percent, compared with no increase in arrests of male juveniles. Similarly, property crime index arrests of juvenile females were up 21 percent while arrests of males declined 4 percent. As the number of juvenile female offenders in the juvenile justice system increases, with 723,000 arrests of females under the age of 18 in 1996, State and local juvenile justice systems need to meet the challenge of developing and implementing delinquency prevention and intervention programs that are designed to meet the specific needs of both at-risk girls and female juvenile offenders.

In response to growing concern over the lack of gender-specific services for females, Congress in 1992 amended the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974 to require that State plans provide an analysis of gender-specific service needs and set forth a plan for providing needed services to this population. This analysis and plan must be completed in order for a State to qualify for Formula Grants programs under the JJDP Act. In addition, in 1992 Congress created a new State Challenge Activities program under Title II of the JJDP Act. This new program, initially funded in fiscal year (FY) 1995, has provided $10 million annually to States to address up to ten identified challenge areas. One of the challenges is for States to develop and adopt policies to address gender bias in placement and treatment and to establish programs to ensure that female juveniles have access to a full range of services.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recognizes that a variety of efforts are currently underway across the country that focus on meeting the specific needs of girls. Juvenile Female Offenders: A Status of the States Report describes State efforts to develop and implement programs and policies to address at-risk girls and juvenile female offenders. The strategies presented in this report include developing gender-specific programs for girls, providing training for juvenile personnel who work with adolescent females, and focusing on the prevention of delinquent behavior in girls through the establishment of front-end, community-based services.

As this report demonstrates, our efforts to address the needs of juvenile females in this country are evolving and changing with the times. Although States are increasingly demonstrating a strong commitment to addressing this issue, more work will be necessary if we are to reduce delinquency among America's fastest growing juvenile offender population. This report serves as both a resource for understanding current initiatives and a guide to assist the field in identifying future courses of action.

Shay Bilchik
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Juvenile Female Offenders: A Status of the States Report October 1998