A report released last month by the North Dakota Dual Status Youth Initiative identifies characteristics of youth in the state who are involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and offers recommendations on inter-agency collaboration for systems to better serve them.
The report is a result of a yearlong study begun in June 2017 through collaboration with representatives from the North Dakota Supreme Court, state Division of Children and Family Services, state Division of Juvenile Services and North Dakota Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group.
The study’s findings are broken into three sections: the demographics of dual status youth in North Dakota, findings on the current practices of the systems serving dual status youth, and policy and practice recommendations.
According to the report, current dual status youth in North Dakota are young: 76 percent of dual status youth were 14 or younger at first arrest. Moreover, the report notes that behavioral health concerns were prevalent among youth and their families, and that about 69 percent of youth had a parent who was previously arrested or incarcerated.
The report also shows that 38 percent of youth staying in out-of-home placements or facilities were charged in school settings. It also found strong overrepresentation of Native American youth in the system.
In analyzing how different agencies engage with dual status youth, the report finds that North Dakota’s data systems do not communicate with one another in identifying dual status youth and sharing relevant information. This lack of communication translated into other areas of concern highlighted in both the report such as the challenges of data and information sharing, the scarcities for services in rural areas, and the fact that placements are chosen based on availability instead of fit.
The report stresses that collaboration is essential to stronger, coordinated case planning and management for youth involved in multiple systems. Not surprisingly, the recommendations brought forward by the committee focused largely on encouraging transparency and communication between agencies.
Among these recommendations are an implementation of protocol to ensure reliable early identification of dual status youth, a development of a multi-agency agreement or to share data and information, and the creation of standardized cross system practices to assess and manage multi-system cases.
Beyond those recommendations, the report also stresses to agencies that assessments and plans given to youth should be coherent to youth and should take into account the circumstances of their families.
The state agencies involved in the initiative worked with the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Corps, which is based in Boston. In a presentation of the study, the authors stated that they hope the state could being implementing the report’s recommendations in October.
Note: This story was updated on August 12, 2018.