The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Delinquency Filings in a Cohort of Children in Custody: Cuyahoga County Ohio, 1990-2010

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Eun Lye Lee, MSW, Doctoral Student, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Claudia Coulton, PhD, Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Nina Lalich, MSPH, Analyst, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Background and Purpose: There is increasing interest in understanding the youth in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. These “crossover” or “dually involved” youth may face greater challenges than youth in juvenile justice or child welfare alone. Yet, empirical evidence is limited. In this sense, the purpose of this study is to explore factors related to juvenile justice system involvement among children served by the child welfare system in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio. Research questions are: 1) What is the likelihood that children who have experienced an out-of-home placement will have a delinquency filing in juvenile court? 2) How do factors such as age at first placement, gender, race and ethnicity, type of out-of-home placement, and number of out-of-home care spells affect the chances of a filing?

Methods:This is a longitudinal study of 10,290 children who were born from 1990 through 1995, and who had an out-of-home placement from 1990 through 2010. In addition, using probability matching, the child welfare cases are matched with all delinquency cases with a petition filed between 2000 through 2010, and occurring before age 18. Data analyzed come from both the Cuyahoga County Department of Child and Family Services and the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court.

The statistical model is a Cox Proportional Hazards model with time-varying covariates. The dependent variable is the filing of a juvenile court petition for delinquency. The independent variables are divided into those that are fixed (i.e., age at first placement, gender, and race and ethnicity), and time varying (i.e., placement type, and number of out of home care spells). Particularly, the model is stratified by age at first placement (grouped as <1 year, 12-24 months, 2-8 years, and 9 years and above).

Results: The results drawn from this study indicate that regardless of age at first placement, the risk of delinquency was higher among children who were male, and African American, ever placed in congregate care, and had more out-of-home placement spells. Particularly, children who had their first out-of-home placement at age 9 and above are at highest risk of juvenile delinquency. For instance, children who were 9 or older at first placement had a 150% higher risk of delinquency filing when they were in their home as compared to non-kinship foster care (HR = 1.50, p<.01). However, interestingly, children who were 9 or older and placed in kinship foster care had a positive effect, with a 44% lower chance of delinquency compared to non-kinship foster care (HR = 0.56, p<.05).

Conclusions and Implications: This study demonstrates that children who enter care later in childhood, have more placements, and have particular types of placements are at high risk for delinquency. The results drawn from this study may help in developing early interventions to reduce crossover youth, and also can be used to guide interagency collaboration in serving children who are at high risk.