New Report Examines Needs of Justice-Involved Girls, Parents and Staff



New Report Examines Needs of Justice-Involved Girls, Parents and Staff

Vanessa Patino Lydia and Debra Illingworth Greene, Editor, NCCD

This post by NCCD's Vanessa Patino Lydia and Debra Illingworth Greene is a guest entry for Reclaiming Futures' online blog.

“Girls get judged too much—it’s OK for guys to get into trouble because they’re guys, but not for girls; this is not fair.”

“The system didn’t realize that the whole family was scared and didn’t understand what was happening.”

“There are not enough adequately trained people to effectively deal with child abuse and neglect issues. As a society, we don’t do a good job of treating these issues; we don’t do a good job of treating the whole being.”

This small sampling of comments represents what justice system-involved girls, their parents, and staff, respectively, shared during listening sessions held nationwide by the National Girls Institute (NGI). The purpose of the listening sessions was to assess the current training, technical assistance, and informational needs of state, tribal, and local entities serving girls who are justice-involved or at risk of involvement as well as their families.

A report detailing the results and implications of the listening sessions, “Voices From the Field: Findings From the NGI Listening Sessions,” was recently released by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). An executive summary of the report is also available.

The Numbers
In 2011, 64 listening sessions and 16 small-group interviews were held throughout the United States with three groups of key stakeholders: girls involved in the justice system or at risk of involvement, parents/caregivers, and staff and volunteers across the continuum of services. A total of 607 individuals—313 girls, 251 staff, and 43 parents—shared their insights about the issues facing girls. They also provided recommendations for improving the response through training, technical assistance, better resources, and changes to policies and practices.

The Findings
Several themes emerged across the three stakeholder groups. These include:

  • The need for effective, supportive communication between girls and parents as well as girls and staff;
  • An emphasis on peer learning opportunities;
  • Using gender-responsive strategies when working with girls;
  • Recognizing differences among girls, particularly regarding issues of gender expectations, sexuality, and identity; and
  • Increasing collaboration across fields including juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health in order to improve outcomes for girls.

The Recommendations
The report also sets forth a series of recommendations for NGI, OJJDP, other federal agencies, and the field. Recommendations, which were developed from the listening sessions’ key themes, include:

  • Increasing opportunities for information sharing and collaboration;
  • Involving girls and parents/caregivers in conversations, research, and theory building about what works for girls; and
  • Incorporating content and methods that surfaced in the listening sessions into the gender-responsive training and technical assistance NGI provides nationwide.

NGI is a research-based training and resource clearinghouse designed to advance understanding of girls’ issues and improve program and system responses to girls in the juvenile justice system. With federal funding, NCCD directs NGI through a cooperative agreement with the OJJDP.

“Through NGI, we’re able to translate research to practice for the stakeholders who are committed to improving outcomes for girls,” said Lawanda Ravoira, director of NCCD’s Center for Girls and Young Women. “The NGI listening sessions provided an unprecedented opportunity to involve stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and locations in sharing their experiences and needs.”

Debra Illingworth Greene is an Editor at NCCD.

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