By Taylor Walker
The population of youth in Los Angeles County’s probation camps who have had contact with the child welfare system is larger than originally estimated, according to a study by the University of Southern California’s Children’s Data Network.
Researchers connected the records of 387 youth who exited LA County Probation camps in 2015 with data on earlier referrals to Child Protective Services. The study revealed a “significant” group of teens in probation camps had involvement with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). (For those unfamiliar, kids who come into contact with both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system are referred to as “crossover youth” or “dual status youth.”)
According to the data the USC team gathered, 83 percent of the teens had previously been referred to DCFS for alleged maltreatment at least once (but often more than once). The average number of times that people reported alleged mistreatment was 5.6 times per child.
There’s no definitive count of crossover kids in LA or California, however. The new data analysis indicates that the number of crossover kids might be higher than experts previously thought. Some California studies have estimated that 50-65% of kids in the juvenile justice system have had contact with child welfare through reported or substantiated neglect or abuse. And approximately 4,000 of the 40,000 kids in the juvenile justice system in California are in probation-run child welfare.
Approximately 70 percent of the kids experienced their first referral to the child welfare system before the age of 10, and 43 percent of the kids were under five. The most common allegation, according to the report, was neglect, followed by physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.