System Backgrounds, Psychosocial Characteristics, and Service Access Among Dually Involved Youth: A Los Angeles Case Study

Published date01 July 2019
DOI10.1177/1541204018790647
Date01 July 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Article
System Backgrounds,
Psychosocial Characteristics,
and Service Access Among
Dually Involved Youth:
A Los Angeles Case Study
Carly B. Dierkhising
1
, Denise Herz
1
, Rebecca A. Hirsch
2
,
and Sam Abbott
3
Abstract
Dually involved youth are youth who are concurrently involved in both the child welfare and juvenile
justice systems. Dually involved youth require a broader array of services compared to single-system
youth though less is known about what types of services youth ultimately access while under the
supervision of both systems. The current study examines the juvenile justice and child welfare
histories, psychosocial characteristics, and predictors of rearrest among the dually involved popu-
lation in Los Angeles County (N¼718) as well as the services youth are referred to and utilize
among a subsample of dually involved youth tracked postdisposition (n¼152). Findings reveal an
increased representation of females and an overrepresentation of African Americans among the
sample. In fact, African American youth in Los Angeles County are disproportionately dually
involved at a rate almost 6 times their general population numbers (7.4% vs. 43%). Youth histories
show significant involvement in both systems with 33% of the sample having been arrested prior to
the current referral, and youth having an average of 10.8 referrals to child welfare in their past.
Youth exhibited high levels of behavioral health issues, which were associated with rearrest. Youth
were referred to a broad range of services, though not all of them were accessed. Placement
changes and contact with probation officers were identified as both challenges to and facilitators of
service access in unique ways.
Keywords
juvenile justice, child welfare, service access, mental health, dually involved youth
1
School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
2
Department of Children and Family Services, Los Angeles, CA, USA
3
Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Carly B. Dierkhising, School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State
University Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90063, USA.
Email: cdierkh@calstatela.edu
Youth Violence and JuvenileJustice
2019, Vol. 17(3) 309-329
ªThe Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/1541204018790647
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Dually involved youth are youth who are concurrently involved in both the child welfare and
juvenile justice systems. These multisystem youth often exhibit higher rates of mental health needs,
substance use, and education-related challenges, including truancy and academic issues, than youth
involved in only one system of care or without system involvement (Herz & Ryan, 2008; Herz,
Ryan, & Bilchik, 2010; Leone & Weinberg, 2012). As a higher needs population, dually involved
youth arguably require a broader array of services compared to si ngle-system youth, particularly
later in life. Recent research among young adults who were system involved as adolescents in Los
Angeles and New York City underscores this point (Culhane et al., 2011; New York City Office of
the Mayor, Center for Innovation Through Data Intelligence, 2015). These studies reveal signif-
icant service utilization (e.g., Medicaid, emergency department visit, inpatient, and jail stay) for
dually involved young adults compared to those with a history of juvenile justice orfostercare
only (Culhane et al., 2011; New York City Office of the Mayor, Center for Innovation Through
Data Intelligence, 2015). For instance, in New York City, about 94%of young adults with a history
of dual involvement were later involved in at least one service domain (i.e., homeless services,
justice services, foster care, financial assistance, and health services), 80%in two or more
domains, and 50%in three or more domains. Similar data from Los Angeles County corroborate
this trend with almost identical percentages, indicating that multisystem involvement often creates
long-term dependency on additional systems and subsequent higher costs (New York City Office
of the Mayor, Center for Innovation Through Data Intelligence, 2015). The estimated average
cumulative cost of service usage for young adults with a history of dual involvement was esti-
mated at US$65,424 compared to US$47,854 for the justice-only group and US$46,670 for the
foster care only group (New York City Office of the Mayor, Center for Innovation Through Data
Intelligence, 2015).
Long-term service utilization and high costs continuing into adulthood may be associated
with unmet or unaddressed behavioral health needs during childhood or adolescence (i.e.,
mental health, substance abuse/use, behavior, and crisis intervention). Some researchers suggest
a causal association between these early behavioral health needs, and childhood maltreatment
and delinquency (Bender, 2010; Kerig & Becker, 2010; Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Thornberry,
Ireland, & Smith, 2001). The experiences of maltreatment and trauma during childhood and
adolescence can disrupt the brain’s typical development and physical structure, exposing mal-
treatment victims to a great risk of mental health issues (Teicher, et al., 2003). Additionally,
victims may utilize alcohol and drugs as a means of coping with their maltreatment, a practice
that often necessitates risky or delinquent behavior (Bender, 2010). Therefore, addressing
behavioral health issues through appropriate services may be considered an appropriate inter-
vention in order to disrupt the factors that contribute to dual involvement, delinquency, and/or
recidivism.
Studies that show high long-term service costs for dually involved youth also emphasize the
need to implement effective and targeted servicespriortothetransitiontoadulthoodtoensure
youth can go on to live healthy, safe, and productive lives. Despite the important role of services in
the lives of dually involved youth and the energy expended by multiple systems that fund and
administer these services, there is very little research on what type of services are available to, and
utilized by, dually involved youth. Previous research, utilizing a subsample from the current study,
focused on education-related issues and services which revealed discrepancies between service
needs, referrals, and access (Hirsch, Dierkhising, & Herz, 2018). The current study looks more
comprehensively at behavioral health needs and service access among the dually involved pop-
ulation in Los Angeles County, CA. Specifically, we examine the behavioral health needs of
dually involved youth, the services youth are referred to and utilize, and factors associated with
service access.
310 Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 17(3)

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