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California State Auditor Report Number : 2015-115

Dually Involved Youth
The State Cannot Determine the Effectiveness of Efforts to Serve Youth Who Are Involved in Both the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems

February 25, 2016 2015-115

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As requested by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the California State Auditor presents this audit report concerning youth who are involved in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system (dually involved youth). This report concludes that, absent a requirement to do so, most of the counties we visited have not monitored outcomes to assess the effectiveness of their efforts with dually involved youth. For example, none of the counties tracked outcomes related to graduation rates for this population. While state law does not require state agencies to provide guidance or counties to track such information, best practice models recommend collecting data and tracking outcomes.

To better address the needs of dually involved youth, various national best practices suggest that agencies start by designing and implementing uniform data collection and reporting systems, identifying their population of dually involved youth, and then beginning to track certain attributes and outcomes such as information related to youths’ delinquent activities, placements, and history of maltreatment. In California, state agencies have provided the counties with only limited guidance related to tracking dually involved youth. Specifically, the State has not defined key terms or established outcomes to track related to dually involved youth, thus it cannot monitor the outcomes for this population statewide. Furthermore, the State cannot perform a robust comparison between the populations of youth involved in dual status and nondual status counties.

Since the initial implementation of dual status protocols in January 2005, state law gives counties the option of developing local dual status protocols that designate certain youth as both dependents and wards of the court in order to maximize support for these children. Depending on the county in which they live, when youth who are already dependents of the court are adjudicated as wards of the court, they may either have their dependency case closed (crossover youth) or fall under the jurisdiction of both dependency and delinquency simultaneously (dual status youth). As of February 2016 the Judicial Council reports that 18 counties have adopted dual status protocols.

Based on our review of the outcomes and services reported in the case files of 166 youth who were adjudicated as dual status youth in three dual status counties (Los Angeles, Riverside, and Santa Clara) or as crossover youth in three nondual status counties (Alameda, Kern, and Sacramento), we found youth in the dual status counties appeared to have less juvenile justice involvement than those in the nondual status counties. However, the model that counties chose to use in serving dually involved youth did not appear to greatly affect the number of services offered or the outcomes achieved for these youth. In both types of counties, the number of services offered increased significantly after a youth’s joint assessment hearing. Moreover, we noted that both dual and nondual status counties had similar outcomes related to out of home placements.

Respectfully submitted,

State Auditor

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