Full Court Press
 Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families,
Children and the Courts

Issue 7 
December 2013
Greetings from the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC). CFCC's Full Court Press e-newsletter focuses on research, policies, and practices affecting families and children who come into contact with the family and juvenile justice systems.  
In This Issue
Advocates for Youth Renew Commitment to Deinstitutionalize Status Offenders


The Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), collaborating with several national organizations, has released new guidelines that call for an end to secure detention of status offenders and that seek to avoid or severely limit court involvement for these youth.  


Recognizing that status offenses are often symptomatic of unmet family and community needs, the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses recommend connecting young people and their families to appropriate family support services rather than detaining the offenders. Status offenses are actions that are prohibited for minors but would not be infractions for adults, such as running away, failing to attend school/truancy, alcohol possession, curfew violations, and incorrigibility.


The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) has endorsed the new guidelines and is a dissemination partner. "In reviewing the new standards, we are very pleased to see that they vigorously support a child-centered, holistic, and trauma-informed approach to youth charged with status offenses," CFCC Director Barbara Babb said. "We at CFCC advocate that approach for all matters that bring families and children into contact with the courts."


The 119-page National Standards aim to inspire and assist individuals, advocacy organizations, and public systems responding to the needs of youth at risk for or charged with status offenses and their families. Divided into four main Principles, the National Standards provide guidance for professionals working with these families and youth on a day-to-day basis, for those working within court systems, and for policymakers and legislators.  


Research shows that secure detention of status offenders is ineffective and often dangerous. Detention does not deter a young person's subsequent status offenses and/or delinquency, and it often brings youth into contact with others who have committed far more serious offenses, such as murder or manslaughter. Moreover, minority youth and girls are especially vulnerable to detention because they are more likely than others to be petitioned to court for status offenses.


Although the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) established deinstitutionalization of status offenders as a core requirement, some status offense cases petitioned to family and juvenile courts across the United States today still involve detention because over half of the states recognize a valid court order (VCO) exception to the JJDPA. The VCO allows judges to confine youth who violate a direct court order, such as one requiring school attendance or compliance with a curfew. The National Standards discourage that practice for all youth charged with status offenses and encourage alternatives to detention. They can be an effective tool for individuals and organizations advocating for legislative, policy, and budgetary changes that support improved outcomes for youth charged with status offenses.

The Double Standard for Girls

Girls are more likely than boys to be petitioned and incarcerated for a status offense and for different reasons. To learn more, read Making Detention Reform Work for Girls from The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

About CFCC

The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts promotes policies and practices that unite families, communities and the justice system to improve the lives of children and families and the health of communities. CFCC advocates the use of therapeutic jurisprudence, the understanding that the legal system has an effect on behavior, emotions and mental health.

Barbara Babb is Associate Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law, and Director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

CFCC Staff and Contributors: Gloria Danziger, Senior Fellow; Andrea Bento, Truancy Court Program Manager and School Liaison; Anthony "Bubba" Green, Truancy Court Program Mentor Coordinator; Catherine Jackson, Truancy Court Program Co-Manager; Katie Davis, Truancy Court Program Coordinator; Nancy Petersen, Outreach Coordinator; Elizabeth Mullen, Program Administrative Specialist; Christopher Gibson, Administrative Assistant

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