State Demographics

In 1996, Pennsylvania's youth population under age 18 was approximately 2,894,700 (Casey Foundation 1998).

Of the State's children, approximately 8 percent were living in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level in 1995. Further, it is estimated that in 1995, approximately 14 percent of Pennsylvania's children under 13 were living in low-income families with working parents (Casey Foundation 1998).

Pennsylvania ranked 15th in the country in terms of teen birth rate for 1995. This same year, the birth rate in the State was approximately 26 births per 1,000 young women ages 15-17. This was up from 25 births per 1,000 young women in 1985 (Casey Foundation 1998).

During the 1996-97 school year, 42 percent (8,703) of the youth dropping out of school were young women. This rate remained stable: 42 percent (8,925) of the 1995-96 school year dropouts were also young women (Pennsylvania Department of Education 1998).

Overview of the Juvenile Justice System

In Pennsylvania, responsibility for all cases involving juvenile offenders under 18 and not accused of murder, or who have not been convicted of a previous felony as an adult, rests in the Court of Common Pleas. These cases are handled by either Family Court Judges, in larger districts, or various court judges as decided by the presiding judge, in smaller districts. In either case, the presiding judge is responsible for adjudication decisions and the appointment of juvenile probation officers and/or other key staff (Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency 1994, p. 3).

The Department of Public Welfare Office of Children, Youth and Families (DPW/OCYF) is the State agency responsible for ensuring that placement facilities and services for juvenile offenders meet acceptable standards. Toward this end, the DPW/OCYF licenses all juvenile justice detention and treatment programs in the State. DPW/OCYF directly operates three Youth Development Centers and two Forestry Camps, which can serve a total of 913 youth in the State. This total includes a 64-bed secure treatment unit for females. The State also has secure detention centers available for the temporary placement of juvenile offenders. These detention centers are county operated and serve youth ages 10 through 17 (Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency 1998, p. 8).

The Formula Grants Program for the State is managed by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Offense Patterns and Processing of Juvenile Female Offenders

The following statistics give an overview of the information available on female offending and processing patterns in Pennsylvania:

  • In 1996, young women accounted for 17.2 percent (6,134) of all juvenile cases processed by the State's juvenile courts (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges' Commission 1996).

  • In 1992, young women represented 9 percent (1,370) of all youth admitted to detention and 9 percent (108) of all youth committed (Poe-Yamagata and Butts 1996, p. 19).

Table 16. Pennsylvania Top 10 Female Offenses, 1994 and 1996

1994 Offense


Larceny (not auto)




Disorderly conduct


Liquor law violations


Curfew -- loitering


Other assaults




Aggravated Assault


Drug abuse


Burglary/breaking & entering


1996 Offense






Disorderly conduct


Liquor law violations


Curfew -- loitering


Other assaults




Aggravated assault


Drug abuse


Burglary/breaking & entering


Source: Uniform Crime Report, Federal Bureau of Investigation (1996).

Approach to Female Offenders

Pennsylvania has established the following two goals for addressing the needs of juvenile female offenders and at-risk young women in the State:

  • Establish a planning group to develop policies and standards concerning the range, availability, and provision of gender-specific services.

  • Develop pilot projects, funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, to provide gender-specific services within a continuum of care model for young women.

Pennsylvania's Juvenile Advisory Committee, the State Advisory Group under the Federal JJDP program, is currently considering commissioning a study of the quality and quantity of services available for juvenile female delinquents. In 1994, an intern with the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, completed a brief examination of this issue. Individuals interested in obtaining a copy of the report from this examination should contact the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.


Annie E. Casey Foundation. 1998. KIDS COUNT Online Data Service. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. 1995. Pennsylvania 1995 Challenge Activity E Grant Application. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. 1998. Pennsylvania Three Year Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Plan. Submitted to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

Pennsylvania Department of Education. 1998. Fact Sheets on Dropout Rates.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Harrisburg, PA. Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges' Commission (JCJC). 1996. Juvenile Court Dispositions. Harrisburg, PA.

Poe-Yamagata, E., and J.A. Butts. 1996. Female Offenders in the Juvenile Justice System: Statistics Summary. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, DC.

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