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Can Foster Care Interventions Diminish Justice System Inequality?


Children who experience foster care, write Youngmin Yi and Christopher Wildeman, are considerably more likely than others to have contact with the criminal justice system, both during childhood and as adults. And because children of color disproportionately experience foster care, improvements to the foster care system could reduce racial/ethnic justice system inequality. Yet the link between foster care and justice system inequality hasn’t received the attention it deserves. This article represents the most comprehensive review to date on how foster care placement can affect children’s risk of criminal justice contact.

Yi and Wildeman review how children come to the attention of Child Protective Services (CPS), how they come to be placed in foster care, and the risks that children in foster care face. They also examine how the child welfare and criminal justice systems intersect, with special attention to the large racial/ethnic disparities in both CPS contact and foster care placement and experiences.

The authors then examine strategies that might reduce inequality in criminal justice outcomes at two stages—during foster care placement, and after children age out of the system (that
is, after they reach the age when they’re no longer eligible to stay in foster care or receive attendant services). They highlight promising interventions that target five critical objectives: the promotion of stability and permanency in foster care placements; expanded and improved access to substance use treatment and mental health care services; provision of legal support for foster youth; extension of employment and educational support for late adolescents and young adults; and supports for securing housing and health care for youth who age out of foster care.


Source: Future of Children (2018). Can Foster Care Interventions Diminish Justice System Inequality?.