ciples for implementing a developmentally informed approach to juvenile justice reform are set forth in Box 11-1.


A developmental approach to juvenile justice often requires a greater institutional reach than delivering court-ordered services or imposing sanctions for wrongdoing. The juvenile justice system has to devise interventions that help youth develop the strong sense of belonging that fosters positive attachments to prosocial adults, peers, and communities. To avoid criminal behavior, youth need access to positive and rewarding learning experiences. They need help navigating the school system and with gaining real work experience and developing sound job readiness skills. Like all adolescents, justice-involved youth also need to participate in vigorous physical activities and learn to have fun without breaking the law. They need access to a diverse array of activities, supports, and opportunities for normal development. These resources also need to be delivered in an environment that is itself developmentally appropriate and conducive to healthy development.

This complex mission makes it impossible for the agencies of the juvenile justice system to operate alone. Juvenile court judges typically cannot ensure that public schools work effectively with youth. Probation officers cannot guarantee that young people have access to stable housing. Prosecutors typically cannot provide youth and their families with access to the labor market and the personal resources to obtain and hold onto steady jobs. The very mission of the juvenile justice system requires it to be interorganizational, cross-sector, and multidisciplinary. In every one of these other systems and service sectors, however, justice-involved youth may be the least attractive, most troubling, and often most expensive clients encountered by an agency. Juvenile justice authorities must work with partners, but the partners may not be deeply motivated to work with them. Organizational partners may accept client referrals from juvenile justice authorities, but their first goal may be to jettison the most “noncompliant” youth they are asked to help. Thus, even a developmentally oriented juvenile justice system will confront challenges when it reaches across the boundaries of the child welfare, mental health, and education systems. An essential component of developmentally oriented juvenile justice reform is to establish genuine partnerships with the agencies that will be recruited to serve the needs of the youth who have become involved with the justice system or who are at risk of becoming involved (Cocozza and Skowyra, 2000; Bilchik, 2009; Shufelt, Cocozza, and Skowyra, 2010).

Collaboration among agencies at the federal level is also needed for systems change and for providing effective support and services (Lehman et al., 1998). Delinquency is one of several problem behaviors that share

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement