Few states, including Pennsylvania, adequately prepare youth returning from placement for re-entry into the community. For example, many youth struggle to return to school and many never receive a high school diploma. A 2006 Philadelphia study prepared for Project U-Turn revealed that 90 percent of youth returning from a delinquency placement fail to graduate from high school. All too often, these youth also lack the tools necessary to join the work force. There is frequently little connection between the “treatment” they receive in care and the acquisition of skills they need to succeed in the community.
Since 2004, Juvenile Law Center has served as the Lead Entity for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Models for Change initiative in Pennsylvania, which has targeted aftercare reform in the state. We worked with Pennsylvania juvenile justice leaders to develop the Joint Policy Statement on Aftercare. Adopted by key state agencies in January 2005, the Joint Policy Statement has since become a primary organizing tool for Models for Change reform efforts, converting aspirations into policy and practice. We have convened and contributed to workgroups statewide addressing aftercare and have worked with stakeholders from the courts, education system, probation, and other juvenile justice practitioners. We coordinate reform efforts at the state and county levels and connect those efforts to the broader national initiative.
The 2005 Joint Policy Statement on Aftercare defined aftercare/re-entry as “beginning at disposition.” Signaling a major change in practice for the system, this definition recognizes the need to connect aftercare services and supports to the programs available to youth while in placement. This early focus on re-entry and continuity is key to ensuring that youth develop the skills they need to become productive members of their communities when they return home.
Many older Pennsylvania youth who leave delinquency placements return to the child welfare system or enter it for the first time. For these youth, aftercare services are linked closely to transition planning for foster youth.
Juvenile Law Center aims to improve aftercare/re-entry services and supervision so that every youth in residential placement has a chance to succeed after his or her release from care.
Last updated December 2011
In one study, over half of youth in juvenile detention had not completed the eighth grade and two-thirds of those leaving formal custody did not return to school.
Roy-Stevens, Cory. "Overcoming Barriers to School Reentry." National Criminal Justice Reference Service, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Oct. 2004.
"Youth are often discharged from care back to families struggling with domestic violence, substance abuse, unresolved mental health disabilities, and extremely low income. Many youth return to neighborhoods with few supportive programs, high crime rates, poverty, and poorly performing schools."
Youth Reentry Task Force of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee. "Back on Track: Supporting Youth from Out-of-Home Placement to the Community," Fall 2009.
In one study, only 30% of youth were involved with school or work within 12 months of their release from involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Bullis, Michael, et al. "Life on the "Outs"—Examination of the Facility-to-Community Transition of Incarcerated Youth." Exceptional Children 69.1 (2002): 7-22.
46% of homeless youth between the ages of 10 and 17 have been in a correctional facility.
G. Owen, J. Heineman, and G.M. Decker. "Overview of Homelessness in Minnesota 2006: Key Facts from the Statewide Survey." Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, April 2007.
Studies have found that delinquent youth are more than seven times as likely to show a history of adult unemployment and welfare dependence than non-delinquent youth.
Sampson, R. J., and John H. Laub. "Crime and Deviance Over the Life Course: The Salience of Adult Social Bonds." American Sociological Review 55.5 (Oct. 1990): 609-627.