Abstract: Contact with Local Enforcement Agencies Among Adolescents Who Lived in Congregate Care (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Contact with Local Enforcement Agencies Among Adolescents Who Lived in Congregate Care

Friday, January 13, 2023
Hospitality 2 - Room 444, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
John Prindle, PhD, Research Faculty, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Andrea Eastman, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jacquelyn McCroskey, DSW, Professor, University of Southern California, CA
Emily Putnam-Hornstein, PhD, John A. Tate Distinguished Professor for Children in Need, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Purpose and Background: Adolescents placed in congregate care versus other foster care placements have increased risk of involvement with Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA). Little research has focused on the risk of involvement with LEAs related to the timing of out-of-home placement in congregate care. The current study seeks to unpack the relationship between placement type and juvenile justice involvement among a population of adolescents who have experienced congregate care.

Methods: California’s Child Protective Services records were used to identify all adolescents between ages 13 and 18 who had spent at least one week in congregate care in years 2014 and 2015 (n=5,397). These were linked to records from the California Department of Justice’s Automated Criminal History System (ACHS), which documented all individuals arrested and booked in California between years 2014 and 2015.

Results: More than half (58.3%) of adolescents had only experienced congregate care, while 12.8% of adolescents who had a spell in a congregate care placement had also been placed in a kin/relative home and 16.0% had experienced both foster care placement and congregate care. Overall, 17.9% of adolescents experiencing congregate care placement were arrested during the window of observation. Males were about one and a half times more likely to be arrested compared to females (HR: 1.62, 95% CI: p<.001) and adolescents who were Black were 1.39 times more likely than adolescents who were Hispanic to be arrested (HR: 1.39, 95% CI: p<.001). Adolescents who left care without permission made up a small proportion of those arrested (n=87) but were more likely to be arrested. Specifically, adolescents who left their congregate care placement without permission were five-and-a-half times more likely to experience arrest (HR: 5.62, 95% CI: p<.001), compared to returning home with their parents. A higher risk was estimated for those still in congregate care compared to adolescents who exited care to reunification or permanent placement (HR: 2.21, 95% CI: p<.001). Similarly, adolescents who were placed into a foster or kinship care home setting (non- congregate care) were less likely to experience arrest compared to adolescents who exited care to reunification or permanent placement (HR: 0.74, 95% CI: p<.001).

Conclusions and Implications: While congregate care placements may be necessary to meet the needs of individual adolescents for a limited time, longer term use can also be associated with increased likelihood of arrest. Reducing the risk of arrests for adolescents who have been involved with the child welfare system is a critically important goal for policy and practice. Identifying ways to rethink guidelines pertaining to leaving care without permission from Child Protective Services (CPS) congregate care placements may reduce the risk of arrest among adolescents.