By Priska Neely
A new study finds that the troubles of the hundreds of youth leaving the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles County each year may have started at home in early childhood.
For most coming out of juvenile detention, the county’s child protective system had received a warning about their mistreatment as kids, according to the study released Friday from the University of Southern California’s Children’s Data Network.
Four out of five exiting in 2015 had at least one referral to the Department of Children and Family Services’s child protection hotline for suspected maltreatment, researchers found. For nearly half, those referrals occurred before age 5.
“The reason we’re so interested in this finding [is because it] means that we can offer those families support and help at the time of the initial call – as opposed to waiting until they’ve already committed a crime or are already involved in the juvenile justice system,” said Jacquelyn McCroskey, co-director of the Children’s Data Network at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
Researchers examined the records of 387 youth who exited from juvenile detention camps or other probation settings in 2015. While 83 percent had referrals to child protective services, more than a third had a maltreatment report substantiated, and 20 percent had been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.