Methods. California’s Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS) was used to identify all youth born in 1998 who had experienced foster care in Los Angeles County. Data were available for years 1998 through 2018 and the data were restricted to age 18 years. These data were probabilistically linked to LA County Probation records from 2012 through 2016 to document juvenile justice involvement (i.e. a petition). Descriptive statistics were used to examine demographic characteristics, CPS placement experiences, and juvenile justice contact. Differences between young people with a juvenile justice petition (dual system) and those without (foster care only) were examined using χ2 tests. Generalized Linear Models were used to estimate adjusted risk ratios (RR) for key variables including mental health conditions, leaving care without permission, placement stability and placement type (e.g. kin, foster, or group homes). Risk ratios reflect the relative risk of dual system involvement for youth in foster care after adjusting for other factors.
Results: Among all young people born in 1998 who were placed in foster care in Los Angeles County (N=8,317), 12.6% had a juvenile justice petition by age 18 (N=1,136). The risk of dual system involvement was elevated among young people in foster care who were male (χ2 (8,317) = 64.2, p < .001) and Black (χ2 (8,317) = 118.6, p < .001). Among young people in foster care, mental health conditions (HR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.25, 1.50, p<.001), leaving care without permission (HR: 1.45, 95% CI: 1.34, 1.58, p<.001), placement instability (HR: 1.23, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.50, p<.01) and placement in a congregate care (HR: 2.44, 95% CI: 2.08, 2.88, p<.001) emerged as significant predictors of dual system involvement.
Conclusions and Implications: This work documents the prevalence of and risk factors for dual system-involvement among the population young people born in California in 1998 who experienced foster care through childhood and adolescence. Young people with dual system involvement differed from those who only experienced CPS foster care in terms of their placement experiences and race/ethnicity. Young people with dual system involvement had longer placements, more placement changes and disruptions (especially due to leaving care without permission), and more need for specialized care (mental health). The study highlights key factors related to dual system contact, broadening understanding of the maltreatment-delinquency relationship from a narrow definition of co-occurring dual status involvement to one that tracks dual system contact from birth through age 18.