Keeping Kids in the Community

The child welfare and justice systems tear far too many children, particularly Black and Brown children, from their families. From their inception, these systems have destroyed families instead of providing the “welfare” or “justice” they claim. They cause harm by design.

This approach also puts Black and Brown youth at heightened risk of harm and can disrupt normal adolescent development. The justice system disproportionately places Black and Brown youth in secure facilities as compared with white peers engaging in similar behavior. Similarly, the child welfare system disproportionately places Black and Brown youth in congregate care facilities as compared with their white peers. These facilities subject children to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. They are also expensive, pulling much-needed resources away from communities.

Youth Do Best in Their Communities

Alternatives are possible – jurisdictions around the country have dramatically reduced their reliance on incarceration and other out-of-home placements. It's time to build on these successes.

Young people do best in their families and communities, where they experience demonstrably better outcomes. Services provided in a community are also more effective and more cost-efficient than those provided in institutions.

If we want to keep young people in their homes and communities, we must ensure that children and families have basic needs met, including housing, food security, education. Centuries of discriminatory policies have made access to these basic needs inequitable; we should be addressing these inequities, not further punishing youth and families by tearing them apart.

Juvenile Law Center promotes law and policies that support youth in their homes and communities whenever possible. This means working to connect youth and their families to supportive resources and interventions through legislative and policy advocacy, litigation, training, and the development of practice guidance. Families and communities provide positive supports for kids. Our policies should recognize and strengthen them rather than undermine those efforts.