National Study of Juvenile Transfers: Good and Bad News

Anyone who reads our Youth Services Insider column with regularity knows our position on the blind spots of research when it comes to system-involved youth. In child welfare, it’s what happens after adoptions are finalized. In juvenile justice, it’s what happens after a youth is transferred to adult court.

We will soon have state-by-state data on failed adoptions, per a law passed in 2014 that takes effect this year. With transfers, there is no such mandate for improved numbers.

So the best bet for any information is the survey on transfers that was announced and funded by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics back in 2010. Progress on that project was stymied when BJS decided to fold it into a much larger venture, the National Judicial Reporting Program.

Let’s start with the good news. YSI has it on good authority that BJS has once again rendered the transfer survey an independent project, and data collection has begun with 2014 figures. BJS told us in April that figures would be publicly available in 2016.

If we had to bet money, YSI would wager the figures will come out after the presidential election but before inauguration. That is, if this Justice Department is interested in weighing in on the results.

Now here’s the bad news: We’ve also heard that collection itself is not going well. No state really has this information readily available, and some are pushing back on the request because it would require lots of man hours.

At the end of the day, we wonder whether the Justice Department would have been better served by seeding a few states, or even just one, to develop the infrastructure needed to track juvenile transfers. That, theoretically, could be exported through training and technical assistance to other states.

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