Ecological Determinants of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Involvement

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A research agenda to reduce system involvement and promote positive outcomes with LGBTQ youth of color impacted by child welfare and juvenile justice systems


Los Angeles, CA

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Research has established that school-related factors are pathways to juvenile delinquency; punitive and exclusionary discipline tactics are associated with increased risk for students. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students are disproportionately suspended and expelled in comparison with their heterosexual and gender conforming peers (Snapp, & Russell, 2016; Burdge, Hyemingway, & Licona, 2014; Himmlestein & Bruckner, 2011; Snapp, Hoenig, Fields, & Russell, 2015; GLSEN, 2016). Results from the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey showed that compared to the overall population, transgender/gender nonconforming adults of color were more likely to be physically attacked, be expelled from school, to be disciplined for fighting back against bullies, and to drop out of school (James et al., 2016). Nearly 75% of transgender/gender nonconforming Latinx and Black adult respondents who were “out” or were perceived as transgender, and 90% of American Indian and Alaska Natives, experienced some form of mistreatment while attending K-12 schools - mostly from peers and school faculty (James, et al. 2016). Risk of exclusion, leading to juvenile justice involvement is high. Sixty-one percent of LGBTQ youth in juvenile justice detention facilities reported being expelled or suspended from school the year prior to entering juvenile justice custody, which is far above the occurrence (<8%) among all school-enrolled youth (Sedlac & McPherson, 2010, p. 44).

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