University study ties children placed in group homes to the juvenile justice system

By Joanna Aguirre

According to new research from the University’s Department of Social Work, children who are placed in group homes are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system for violent and threat-related offenses.

Graduate student in social work Jane Marshall helped with the research. She said that once children misbehave they fall into a vicious cycle.

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“A lot of the times kids who are mal-treated are in foster care get mental health services; and people want to help them but then once they commit a crime they get treated differently,” Marshall said. “In the juvenile justice system they might not receive the mental services that they still need, they’re more punished.”

About half the money states spend on foster care goes to group homes. Head researcher and assistant professor in social work, Joseph Ryan, said this is a problem.

Ryan said group homes are very costly and not many kids are in them. This leaves foster families with less financial aid.

Ryan and his colleagues have conducted the study for a little over a year and a half and they’ve also found a correlation between races.

“Group homes disproportionally impact African Americans, but they’re more likely to end up in these placements and the effect is then they are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system,” Ryan said. “It seems a significant contributor to the disproportionate minority content.”

Most offenders tend to be African American and Latino males. The information for the study was collected from Los Angeles county’s foster care system from 2001 to 2005.

Although this study hasn’t been conducted in the state of Illinois, Ryan is collecting data from the state’s judicial system.

For now, he proposes better education for foster parents and a monetary shift to benefit more foster homes.