Children who come to the attention of the juvenile justice system are a challenging and underserved population. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has developed resources to help juvenile justice professionals understand and provide trauma-focused services to these youth.
We invite you to share these fact sheets with your juvenile justice partners, community leaders, policy makers, teachers, parents, and families. For more information contact Jane Halladay Goldman , director of the Service Systems Program.
Trauma Among Girls in the Juvenile Justice System (2004) (PDF) 
Despite differences in methodology and instrumentation, numerous studies done over the past ten years have documented high rates of mental and emotional disorders among youth in the juvenile justice system, including high rates of traumatic stress (Arroyo, 2001; Abram et al., 2004; Cauffman et al., 1998; Steiner, 1997; Wasserman et al., 2002; Wood et al., 2002a; Wood et al., 2002b). Estimates of prevalence rates of PTSD among youth in the juvenile justice system should be considered with caution as they vary significantly depending on the type of sample, the measure used, and the time frame assessed (Abram et al., 2004). Additionally, few studies have specifically investigated PTSD among female juvenile offenders, which also makes generating reliable estimates challenging. Generally, however, PTSD has been found to be more common among youth in the juvenile justice system than youth in community samples, and more common among incarcerated girls than boys.
Despite falling crime rates, more adolescent girls are arrested and incarcerated in the United States in recent years than ever before (NMHA, 2003). Nearly three quarters of a million girls below the age of 18 were arrested in 1997, accounting for 26% of juvenile arrests. In the 1990s, the number of juvenile females arrested for violent crime index offenses increased 25%, although there were no increases for male juveniles for the same offenses. The growing number of girls in the juvenile justice system and the high rates of exposure to violence among these girls pose special challenges and obligations for juvenile justice facilities and programs.
Victimization and Juvenile Offending (2004) (PDF) 
While some children survive victimization with relatively few adverse consequences, many studies show that victimization can disrupt the course of child development in very fundamental ways and can contribute to problems over the course of the life span. Numerous studies since the mid-1990s have shown a clear relationship between youth victimization and a variety of problems in later life, including mental health problems, substance abuse, impaired social relationships, suicide, and delinquency (OVC, 1999; Kilpatrick et al., 2003a). Violent victimization during adolescence is acknowledged as a risk factor for violent crime victimization, domestic violence perpetration, and problem drug use in adulthood (Ford, 2002).
While most professionals agree that no single risk factor or experience leads a young person to delinquency (Wasserman et al, 2003), the chances of offending clearly increase when a teenager is a witness to or victim of violence and experiences traumatic stress as a result.
Assessing Exposure to Psychological Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress in the Juvenile Justice Population (2004) (PDF) 
Thorough trauma assessment with children and adolescents is a prerequisite to preventing the potentially chronic and severe problems in biopsychosocial functioning that can occur when PTSD and associated or comorbid behavioral health disorders go undiagnosed and untreated (Nader, 1997). Although, like adults, most children who experience a traumatic stressor do not develop PTSD (Saigh, et. al., 1999), unresolved posttraumatic stress can lead to serious long-term consequences into and throughout adulthood (Briere, 1997). These long-term consequences can include, but are not limited to, problems with interpersonal functioning, cognitive functioning, mental health disorders including PTSD as well as substance abuse disorders, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and conduct disorders (Briere, 1997; Nader, 1997; Saigh, et. al., 1999).
A number of approaches and instruments are available for the clinician and researcher seeking to conduct trauma and PTSD assessment with children and adolescents in juvenile justice settings and their caregivers. Relatively few instruments, however, have been used, let alone systematically evaluated, with juvenile justice populations. Also, no studies have systematically examined potential differences by assessment format or respondent gender, age, or ethnocultural background in the assessment process or outcomes related to trauma history or PTSD in juvenile justice settings. Given the high prevalence of trauma exposure and PTSD in juvenile justice populations, careful clinical application and scientific study of the trauma history and PTSD assessment instruments are important steps toward enhanced services and outcomes for this large, high-risk, and typically underserved population.
Trauma-Focused Interventions for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System (2004) (PDF) 
A number of effective trauma-focused treatments have either been designed or adapted for adolescents. Unfortunately, few of these trauma-focused treatments are used much in juvenile justice settings, due to lack of clinical resources in these settings, underidentification of trauma symptoms, and a greater focus on behavioral management issues.
Research done with the juvenile justice population over the last ten years show generally that the most effective programs with this population are highly structured; emphasize the development of basic skills, and provide individual counseling that directly addresses behavior, attitudes and perceptions (Altschuler, 1998). Cognitive behavioral approaches have been shown to be particularly effective with youth in the juvenile justice system, and more generally, for children with anger and disruptive behaviors.
Juvenile justice facilities have an opportunity to raise the standard of care for youth by providing effective trauma-focused treatments and family-based interventions. Additionally, since some youth express trauma symptoms behaviorally, treatments that address trauma symptoms can also be expected to assist juvenile justice staff with issues related to behavioral management.
Trauma in the Lives of Gang-Involved Youth: Tips for Volunteers and Community Organizations (2009) (PDF) 
For youth who have been traumatized, gangs can offer an apparent sense of safety, control, and structure that is often missing from their lives. But gang involvement is also a risk factor for interpersonal and other traumas. This fact sheet defines traumatic stress, explains why trauma is so prevalent among gang-involved youth, and provides tips for community organizations and volunteers on working with this population.
Your Child and Gangs: What You Need to Know about Trauma - Tips for Parents (2009) (PDF)
Individual reactions to trauma vary dramatically. What is devastating to one child may be less so for another. A youth's subjective response to a traumatic event depends upon a number of factors, such as individual personality, coping style, previous trauma, cultural background, and environment. This fact sheet defines traumatic stress, explains the appeal of gang involvement for traumatized youth, and offers information for parents on helping their children cope.
Birth Parents with Trauma Histories and the Child Welfare System: For Judges and Attorneys (2011) (PDF)
This resource is part of a series of factsheets developed from the Birth Parent Subcommittee of the Child Welfare Committee. They highlight the importance of understanding the serious consequences that trauma histories can have for birth parents and the subsequent potential impact on their parenting. This particular resource was specifically developed for the audience of judges and attorneys. Click here  to access the Birth Parents with Trauma Histories series.
Helping Traumatized Children: Tips for Judges (2009) (PDF) 
This fact sheet for judges and other court personnel outlines the impact of trauma on children's development, beliefs, and behaviors. It is designed to help professionals in the juvenile justice and family court system become more effective in addressing the unique needs and challenges of the traumatized children and adolescents they work with.
In partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) , members of the Network contributed to two issues of the Juvenile and Family Court Journal devoted to child trauma. Articles in the spring 2006 and fall 2008 editions of the journal inform judges and other members of the juvenile and family court systems about issues they should consider when working with youth who have been exposed to trauma.
Both issues can be ordered from NCJFCJ 
Service Systems Brief (vol 2, no 2): Judges and Child Trauma: Findings from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network/National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges Focus Groups (2008) (PDF) 
This NCTSN Service Systems Brief reports the results of focus groups conducted with members of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). The Network conducted the focus groups in order to understand how knowledgeable juvenile and family court judges are about child trauma and to identify ways to work with NCJFCJ to promote education on the issue.
This technical assistance bulletin highlights crucial fact that juvenile court judges should know that they can best meet the needs of traumatized children who come into their system. A collaboration between the NCTSN and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges , this publication was funded by the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention .