Believing that what is lacking in the literature on the interaction of child welfare and juvenile justice operations and decisions is an investigation into the complex decisions and processes occurring at the intersection of these two systems, the current study draws on interviews (N = 15) with juvenile justice and child welfare practitioners operating in the St. Louis Metropolitan, Missouri area to examine the practices of those serving dual system youth.
Researchers have studied juveniles at the intersection of child maltreatment and delinquency for several years. These studies capture the prevalence and outcomes of youth who navigate child welfare and juvenile justice systems, otherwise known as crossover youth. The findings of the current study demonstrate how the siloed nature of juvenile justice and child welfare influences decision-making in a way that routinely transfers dual system youth back and forth between the two systems. Moreover, youth are routinely transferred in two related ways: 1) through practitioners in one system shifting responsibility to the alternative system in a way that “hands off” youth, and 2) through local bureaucratic practices and reform initiatives that shift responsibility to the alternative provider. Substantively, these findings hold implications for researchers studying crossover youth, practitioners in social service settings, and youth who are served through a widened net of punishment that is increasingly blurring the boundaries of child welfare needs (e.g., housing and mental health services) and mechanisms of control (e.g., surveillance and group home settings). (Publisher abstract provided)