Advancement Project, supported by The W.M. Keck Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation, convened an unprecedented partnership of advocates, researchers, and Los Angeles County’s Probation Department to examine current data practices and the path of representative youth through the Probation system, and developed a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve youth outcomes. On April 1, 2015, the partnership released The Los Angeles County Juvenile Probation Outcomes Study.
Dr. Denise Herz of California State University Los Angeles’ School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics was the principal investigator of the report, supported by Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey, John Milner Professor of Child Welfare in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California who convened a roundtable of experts from across Southern California, and by the Children’s Defense Fund – California who helped lead the advocacy portion and researching national best practices.
In Los Angeles County, an alarming number of children and youth live in conditions that lead to their involvement in the County’s health, mental health, child welfare, human services, and juvenile justice systems. Children who enter the juvenile justice system, in particular, face myriad challenges including struggling in school and mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
The Los Angeles County Juvenile Probation Outcomes Study found that these youth are involved with many different County departments. Yet, identifying and documenting shared connections across County agencies is nearly impossible because agency data systems are seldom integrated, and the interpretation of confidentiality protections limits the exchange of information across agencies. Without interagency coordination, though, youth and families may not receive the services they need, they may receive duplicative services, and/or they may receive inappropriate services.
The report finds that to serve Probation-involved youth and families, a better understanding is needed of the characteristics and needs of Probation-involved youth and their outcomes over time. Unfortunately, defining and consistently reporting outcomes for youth under Probation supervision has been elusive for several reasons. The report’s primary recommendation is that County decisions should be guided by standardized data collection based on desired outcomes for youth, and that shared information can drive better interagency coordination and collaboration.
The report provides an overview of the need for and purpose of juvenile justice data as well as the current structures of data collection in Los Angeles County (Chapter 1). Next, it examines the characteristics and situational contexts of youth exiting from suitable placements and juvenile camp placements during 2011 (Chapters 2 & 3). Eight in-depth youth case histories taken from Probation records are presented to illustrate the context within which these youths’ stories unfold from the perspective of the Probation Officers who supervise and oversee youth in the system. Based on the findings presented in this report, Chapter 5 presents recommendations to improve practice through targeted reform and improved use of data.