LGBT/GNC Youth in Juvenile Justice

Our Staff

NCCD Blog

LGBT/GNC Youth in Juvenile Justice

Dr. Angela Irvine

Over the past three years, NCCD staff have worked on multiple projects that aim to reduce the number and proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming (LGBT/GNC) youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

This work has shed light on this population of youth. For example, through our “Dispelling Myths Surrounding the Incarceration of LGBT Youth” project, we surveyed and interviewed youth in seven sites across the country. We learned that, of those youth, 20% of those in detention were LGBT/GNC. Disaggregating by gender, 40% of girls and 14% of boys were LGBT/GNC. We also learned that 85% of LGBT/GNC youth were of color. These findings are based on 1,400 surveys and 130 interviews with youth in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, California; Cook County, Illinois; Jefferson County, Alabama; Jefferson and New Orleans parishes, Louisiana; and Maricopa County, Arizona.

Realizing the importance of providing services that meet the specific needs of LGBT/GNC youth and youth of color, we developed training curricula to help social workers and probation officers better serve these youth. We trained social workers and probation officers in two California counties in order to help reduce the number of runaways, increase placement stability, reduce placements in congregate care, and increase placements with extended kin in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. We also trained probation officers in 13 central California counties on how to collect sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) information from all youth. Collecting SOGIE information is key to understanding these youth and their particular needs. The more information we have, the better we can serve them.

We provided technical assistance to Alameda County in order to reinforce efforts to reduce the incarceration and out-of-home placement of LGBT/GNC youth in their juvenile justice system. In doing so, we helped the county develop an anti-discrimination policy and a grid that helps probation officers find alternatives to out-of-home placements.

This year, we also partnered with the Chief Probation Officers of California to complete a statewide survey of every detention hall, ranch, and camp across the state to understand pathways into detention.

As we complete these projects, we are producing a series of practice guides and position papers that can be found here. These papers provide the juvenile justice and child welfare fields new data about the LGBT/GNC youth they are serving and advice on the best strategies for meeting their needs. In addition, we are sponsoring a series of blog posts written by representatives at partner agencies that are doing similar work. Stay tuned as these individuals write about different facets of the movement to reduce system involvement of LGBT/GNC youth, including successes and challenges that remain.

Our LGBT/GNC blog series will be catalogued here as each post goes live:

Expanding Gender-Responsive Principles to Incorporate Trans Females by Mykel Selph, Criminal Justice Consultant

Serving LGBT Youth on Probation by Scott Ball, Chief Probation Officer, Merced County (CA) Probation Department

Time to Expand the Lens on Girls in the Juvenile Justice System  by Dr. Angela Irvine

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