Trauma-Informed Strategies for Supporting Youth in the Juvenile Justice System during COVID-19

This brief provides guidance for juvenile justice (JJ) administrators and staff to promote healing and increase the likelihood of resilience among youth, despite the many adversities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and their involvement in the JJ system. Juvenile justice services include community supervision (probation or parole), as well as institutional placement of youth in juvenile jails or prisons. Only about one quarter of adjudicated youth are placed in out-of-home care. Many youth in juvenile justice—especially those in institutional settings—have experienced significant childhood adversity and trauma. System involvement and certain JJ system practices can increase psychological distress; these practices include searches or pat-downs, the use of physical restraints, and out-of-home placement. Black, Hispanic, and Native American youth are historically overrepresented in the JJ system due to systemic inequities in law enforcement, rates of institutionalization, and biases in decision-making processes; they are also more likely to have experienced trauma due, in large part, to structural racism and historical trauma. Girls comprise a minority of JJ youth, but are more likely to have suffered considerable adversity, to have preexisting mental health issues, and to meet the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. The good news is that decades of research on resilience shows that protective factors can help youth thrive in the face of trauma and adversity. #mentalhealth #racialequity

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