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     OJJDP Design Study of Dual System Youth

Brief description:

The purpose of this study is to develop a sound research design for obtaining national estimates of youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems and to identify strategies to improve coordination across systems.


OJJDP launched the Design Study of Dual System Youth to develop a sound research design for obtaining national estimates of youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems and to identify effective strategies to improve coordination between the two systems. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act emphasizes the need to develop knowledge regarding the relationship between the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Youth who are involved in both systems are referred to as dual system or crossover youth.

Goals and Objectives:

Researchers at California State University, Los Angeles are conducting this study in collaboration with experts across the nation. The overall goals of this project are to (1) propose a feasible, reliable, and cost-effective method to generate a national estimate of dual system youth and (2) identify strategies that are likely to promote more effective coordination between local child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

The objectives include:

  • Analyze administrative records from multiple jurisdictions to identify pathways that lead to multiple system involvement and to better understand characteristics of the dual system populations in those jurisdictions.
  • Conduct case studies to identify examples of successes and challenges associated with cross-system collaboration and data integration in local jurisdictions.
  • Develop clear reports and recommendations that address both a method to collect and report national estimates and promote more effective local practice around dual system youth.

The researchers formed two subcommittees to complete these objectives. The Linked Administrative Data Subcommittee designed a method to generate local incidence estimates, including characteristics and pathways, of dual system youth. The subcommittee is also overseeing the analysis of administrative data from study sites. The Jurisdictional Case Studies Subcommittee oversaw the analysis of case study data and identified key practices and policies associated with increased system coordination and collaboration.


Administrative record analysis:

The research partners completed the collection and analysis of the first wave of child welfare and juvenile justice administrative data. They identified all youth between 2010 and 2014 who had their first petition to juvenile court in Cuyahoga County, Ohio [N=11,441]; Cook County, Illinois [N=14,170]; and New York City [N=1,272-includes only 2010-2011]). Researchers matched these youth to the child welfare data and analyzed youth with cases in both to capture the incidence of dual system contact, different pathways to dual system contact, and the characteristics of youth on those different pathways.

The researchers are currently replicating these analyses for a first arrest cohort of youth in Cook County and producing long-term outcomes for the first petition cohort of youth using other administrative data in both Cook and Cuyahoga Counties.

By the end of 2018, the researchers should produce another set of analyses using the administrative data to further understand the complexities related to youth who come into contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Case Studies:

The research team identified key terms and definitions for youth who touch both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and distinguished different pathways to dual system involvement.

The research team analyzed site data collected as part of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform's Crossover Youth Practice Model to explore which integrated services 41 jurisdictions most often implemented, changes in youth outcomes in 19 sites, and the successes and challenges in implementing these practices.

Recommendations and reports:

The research team developed a recommended methodology to estimate an incidence rate of dual system youth nationwide in October 2017 and submitted it to OJJDP. This methodology takes into account both the availability of administrative data and the cost of retrieving and analyzing these data.

Researchers are synthesizing findings from the administrative data and the on-the-ground experience of experts across the country to develop recommendations for a Best Practices Rubric for Dual System Youth that jurisdictions can use to assess their level of systems' integration to support these youth.

The researchers are also planning to develop a series of manuscripts with findings from the administrative records. They will develop three manuscripts based on the integrated systems work, including a comprehensive literature review, a practice brief that will include the Best Practices Rubric with case examples of these best practices, and an in-depth case study of a jurisdiction that practices cross-system collaboration. These papers will inform policymakers and practitioners in the field on the specific needs of dual system youth and strategies on how to implement best practices for cross-system collaboration.

Contact Information:

Barbara Tatem Kelley, Social Science Analyst | 202-616-9517

Denise Herz | 323-343-4737
California State University Los Angeles

Carly Dierkhising | 323-343-4610
California State University Los Angeles

Project Snapshot

Project Title: Design Study of Dual System Youth

Solicitation: OJJDP FY 2015 Design Study of Dual System Youth

Grantee: California State University, Los Angeles

Award start date: October 1, 2015

End date: September 30, 2017

Award status: Active

Type of research: Data collection and analysis

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