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Trauma Exposure, Ecological Factors, and Child Welfare Involvement as Predictors of Youth Crossover into the Juvenile Justice System

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $74,997)

Researchers at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago will examine how childhood exposure to trauma, individual strengths and risk factors, as measured by the CANS-Trauma (Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths-Trauma), affect juvenile justice involvement for children and youth in Chicago who are in the child welfare system. Previous research has shown that youth with a history of involvement in the child welfare system are more likely to enter into the juvenile justice system. Rates of “crossing over” between child welfare system and the juvenile justice system are estimated at between 10% and 30% of all youth in the child welfare system. The cumulative impact of exposure to trauma, community distress as measured by ecological factors, and the extent to which they are mitigated by family and community assets has not been established. Furthermore, the impact of those factors on the likelihood of crossover youth becoming dually involved remains unexamined.

Researchers will use administrative data from the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services to identify a cohort of children and youth born between 1996 and 2002. Cox regression survival analysis will be used to assess the conditions associated within that cohort of youth (a) crossing over into the juvenile justice system; and (b) having particular types of involvement with the juvenile justice system (i.e., arrest, court involvement, or detention). Data from the Illinois Department of Family and Children’s Services, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Circuit Court of Cook County, and the Chicago Police Department will be used in the model.
The goal of this study is explore developmental pathways from trauma exposure to juvenile justice involvement, focusing on how timing and cumulative exposure to trauma affect youth. The aim is to produce a model that accurately describes the individual and ecological factors associated with increased likelihood of juvenile justice involvement, based on readily available data, which could be used to develop interventions targeted to youth with specific experiences. Findings of the study have implications for the development of trauma-informed community contextualized programming and services with the goal of reducing the number of youth who crossover from one system to the other.

The study will result in an academic publication, practitioner-friendly briefs, research and policy briefs, and presentations to both researchers and state/local agency staff that describe the findings and implications for program providers and policymakers.


Date Created: September 14, 2016