Volume 4, Issue 1 • Winter 2015

Table of Contents


Modifying Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Incarcerated Female Youth: A Pilot Study

The Impact of Child Protective Service History on Reoffending in a New Mexico Juvenile Justice Population

Social Distance Between Minority Youth and the Police:
An Exploratory Analysis of the TAPS Academy

Rural Youth Crime: A Reexamination of Social Disorganization Theory’s Applicability to Rural Areas

How to Help Me Get Out of a Gang: Youth Recommendations to Family, School, Community, and Law Enforcement Systems

Exploratory Research Commentary:
How Do Parents and Guardians of Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System Handle Adolescent Sexual Health?

The Impact of Child Protective Service History on Reoffending in a New Mexico Juvenile Justice Population

Victoria F. Dirmyer, State of New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, Juvenile Justice Services Data Analysis Unit; Katherine Ortega Courtney, State of New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, Protective Services Research Assessment and Data Bureau.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Victoria Dirmyer, New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, Juvenile Justice Services Data Analysis Unit, Santa Fe, NM 87502. E-mail: victoria.dirmyer@state.nm.us

Keywords: child protective services, Kaplan-Meier Survival, juvenile justice, recidivism


Juvenile offending is a serious public health concern. One of the objectives for Healthy People 2020 (www.healthypeople.gov) is adolescent health; specifically, the need to improve the development, health, safety, and well-being of adolescents. Studies have shown an association between child abuse and later juvenile delinquency. Yet little is known about the continuation of juvenile justice (JJ) involvement beyond a youth’s first contact with the JJ system. This study used a Kaplan-Meier survival approach to measure the time between petitioned charges for a New Mexico JJ population between January 2002 and March 2013. At 12 months after the first petitioned charge, 67% of youth with no history of child protective services (PS) involvement did not reoffend compared to 54% of youth with a history of substantiated PS involvement. At 36 months, 59% of youth with no history of PS involvement did not reoffend compared to 39% with substantiated claims. Females were two times more likely to have a history of substantiated PS involvement compared to males (OR = 2.14; 95% CI: 2.00-2.28). African American youth (OR = 1.24; 95% CI: 1.05-1.46) and youth who identified with two or more race/ethnicities (OR = 1.85; 95% CI: 1.58-2.17) had higher odds of PS involvement than non-Hispanic White youth. These results indicate that many of the New Mexico youth involved with juvenile justice services also were involved with child protective services.


The link between child maltreatment or abuse and juvenile delinquency is well established. Although this link exists, the majority of children who are abused do not offend. Abused children often suffer from developmental deficits, including disruptive behavior, behavioral and academic issues at school, depressive symptoms, and increased aggression in adolescence (Cicchetti & Rogosch, 1997; Dodge, Bates, & Pettit, 1990; Thornberry, Ireland, & Smith, 2001). Researchers have shown that the timing of child abuse is critical, not just the age of onset of abuse, but the occurrence of abuse at certain developmental time points. Multiple studies have shown that maltreatment during adolescence increases the risk of children being involved with the juvenile justice system (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000; Smith, Ireland, & Thornberry, 2005; Thornberry et al., 2001).

Several studies have examined the relationship between types of child abuse and delinquency, but the results have been conflicting. In a study by Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, and Johnsen (1993) comparing maltreated children to comparison groups of random school children and children in poverty (N = 1,091) living in North Carolina, physically or sexually abused children were no more likely to commit violent crimes than children with a history of neglect when controlling for age, gender, race, and family structure. A second study among 159,549 school-age children in California who had a child protective services investigation indicated that neglect, rather than physical or sexual abuse, was a better predictor of juvenile delinquency (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 2000). Results from the Chicago Longitudinal Study, a study of low-income, minority children, indicated that both physical abuse and neglect are associated with violent offending among disadvantaged minority children (Mersky & Reynolds, 2007).

In 2010, an estimated 3.3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect were reported to U.S., state, and local PS agencies, a rate of 43.8 reports per 1,000 children (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2012). In the state of New Mexico in 2010, there were 23,751 cases of child abuse reported to state PS offices. The total population of children ages 0 to 17 years in 2010 in the state was 518,998 (Puzzanchera, Sladky, & Kang, 2013). The rate of reports of child abuse and/or neglect in New Mexico in 2010 was estimated at 45.7 reports per 1.000 children.

In New Mexico in 2010, there were 23,111 juvenile justice referrals, involving 14,532 juveniles reported to juvenile justice services (JJS-FY10 Annual Report) in an at-risk population of 230,461 children age 10 to 17 living in New Mexico (Puzzanchera et al., 2013). On average, there were 1.6 referrals per youth, with some youth having only one referral for the year and others having multiple referrals for the year. Although the rate of incarcerated youth in the United States has declined in the last 15 years, there is still more work that can be done to prevent youth from involvement in the juvenile justice system (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013).

The cost savings to taxpayers of preventing a lifetime of crime for a high-risk youth—defined as one who habitually commits crimes, is aggressive and violent toward others, engages in substance abuse, and is likely to drop out of high school—has been estimated at $2.6 to $5.3 million by age 18 (Greenberg & Lippold, 2013). The cost of just one lifetime police contact prior to the age of 26 is estimated to be $200,000; costs for youth with two or more police contacts are estimated at $1.3 million; and the estimates are increasingly higher for habitual offenders (Cohen & Piquero, 2009).

On average, abused and neglected children begin committing crimes at younger ages, committing nearly twice as many offenses as nonabused children, and are arrested more frequently (Widom, 1992). The identification of risk factors influencing the development of behavioral problems in children that lead to juvenile justice involvement will help to identify future children at risk. Once identified, these children can receive the necessary treatment or intervention to aid them in becoming productive members of society. In the current study, we aimed to compare demographic characteristics (potential risk factors) of a petitioned juvenile justice population by PS involvement and to determine whether PS involvement influences the time between a client’s first petitioned juvenile justice offense and a second petitioned offense.


Given the current knowledge regarding the association of childhood abuse and neglect with the increased risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system, this study seeks to determine the demographic differences between children with a history of substantiated PS involvement as opposed to no PS involvement in a large population of New Mexico juvenile justice clients petitioned from January 2002 through March 31, 2013. First, drawing on previous research, we believe that a large percentage of clients in the juvenile justice system will have had previous substantiated involvement with PS. Second, we anticipate that children who have a history of substantiated abuse or neglect are likely to be delinquent adolescents and, therefore, more likely to become involved with the juvenile justice system at an earlier age than children without a history of substantiated abuse or neglect. Third, we expect that children with substantiated involvement with PS will reoffend in a shorter time period due to a disruptive home life and their inability to properly orient themselves to social settings.


Children, Youth, and Families Department of New Mexico (CYFD)

The Children, Youth, and Families Department of New Mexico comprises three service divisions: Early Childhood Services (ECS), Protective Services (PS), and Juvenile Justice Services (JJS). The department was created in 1992 under Governor Bruce King. The purpose of the department was to integrate and place appropriate emphasis on services provided by multiple state agencies, ranging from early childhood development to institutional care. The CYFD’s goal is to support the strengthening of families and communities through services directed at increasing positive outcomes. By combining the three service divisions under one umbrella department, a single case management and tracking system captures data on individuals. This system keeps the same unique identifier for each youth, regardless of the program with which the youth comes into contact. Therefore, a youth who is involved in more than one program has all of his or her data contained in a single electronic file. New Mexico is unique in this regard, as most states choose to have separate divisions, each with its own specific client tracking system; thus, the merging of data between divisions could be problematic. New Mexico CYFD has emphasized collaboration between service areas, addressed confidentiality concerns, and implemented initiatives that have resulted in unprecedented data sharing.

Child Protective Services Department (PSD) in New Mexico

The New Mexico Child Protective Service division is responsible for all child welfare services for children and families living in New Mexico. In accordance with the New Mexico Children’s Code (Section 32A-4, NMSA 1997), the PSD is mandated to receive and investigate reports of children in need of protection from abuse and/or neglect by their parent, guardian, or custodian, and to take action to protect those children whose safety cannot be assured in the home. PSD staff is available to receive reports of child abuse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including reports of child abuse and/or neglect of children in placement. It is the duty of intake workers to receive these calls and determine the level of priority given the circumstances of the report. The level of priority determines the timeframe of response; this can range from immediate response to 5 days. Services range from in-home care to foster care to termination of parental rights.

Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) in New Mexico

New Mexico consists of 33 counties with 27 juvenile probation offices statewide, which receive citations and/or police reports and truancy reports from schools. Each case is assigned to a juvenile probation officer (JPO) within 5 days of receipt of the charge report. The JPO assigned to the charge conducts a preliminary inquiry (interview) within 2 days (for youth in detention) or 30 days of being assigned the case. JPOs are responsible for entering case data into the case management system. After the completion of the preliminary inquiry, the JPO decides whether to handle the case informally or formally. For cases handled informally, the JPO decides which youth services to require the client to complete within a predetermined time period. If the decision is made to handle the case formally, then the JPO submits case information to a Children’s Court Attorney (CCA) of the district attorney’s office with a recommendation for an appropriate disposition. Cases that go to the CCA are referred to as petitioned charges; in New Mexico, a petition is a legal document in which the state formally alleges the client to be a delinquent or youthful offender due to the commission of a delinquent act(s). Once the case goes to court, the children’s court judge makes a final decision on the disposition of the client.

Study Design

The present study capitalizes on an existing data system, the Family Automated Client Tracking System (FACTS), used by the juvenile justice system of New Mexico. Detailed information regarding demographics and case information are collected by juvenile probation officers during interviews with the youth and their guardian and entered into the electronic FACTS system. FACTS has been in existence since 1996. Originally, the case management system was developed for child welfare using federal Statewide/Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) funds, and only protective services used the case management system. However, in 1999, juvenile justice services functionality was added, and probation/parole and juvenile corrections began using the same system. For this study, all data were extracted from this centralized case management system.

Sample Population

Child PS data were captured from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) report for Federal Fiscal Years 1998 through 2011 and produced by the New Mexico Child Protective Services Unit containing extracted data from the case management system (FACTS), which underwent extensive data cleaning. NCANDS is a voluntary data collection and analysis system that was created in response to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (PL 111-320). All states provide data on protective service reports, investigations, victims, and perpetrators. Information on case-level information is also provided by the states. The NCANDS records include all investigations or assessments of alleged child maltreatment that received a disposition (finding) for the reporting time period.

Youth with at least one juvenile justice charge leading to petition between January 2002 and March 2013 were included in this study. The juvenile justice data set of all formal charges leading to petitions were merged with child protective service data collected from 1998 through 2011 by use of a unique client identifier.

The primary variables of interest for analysis from the combined data set were sex, race/ethnicity, prior PS history, PS case disposition, the average number of juvenile justice formal charges leading to petitions, and the following information at first juvenile justice petitioned charge: age, county of residence, crime type, and severity/degree of crime. Clients were split into two groups: those with prior substantiated PS involvement and those with no PS involvement (dependent variable). For the survival analysis, a third group, those with unsubstantiated PS involvement, was included to further clarify the PS population.

According to the New Mexico Children’s Code: Substantiated PS involvement is defined as an allegation of child abuse or neglect in which a parent, guardian, foster parent, pre-adoptive parent, or treatment foster care parent has been identified as the perpetrator or as failing to protect the child, and credible evidence exists to support the investigation worker’s conclusion that the child has been abused or neglected.

Unsubstantiated PS involvement is defined as an allegation of child abuse or neglect in which the information collected during the investigation does not support a finding that the child was abused or neglected as defined in the New Mexico Children’s Code by a parent, guardian, foster parent, pre-adoptive parent or treatment foster parent, or that such a person failed to protect the child from abuse or neglect.



Demographics on clients, specifically their sex, race/ethnicity, and county of residence were collected by Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs) during the time of the preliminary inquiry. Client files were then created in FACTS, capturing all data on demographics, as well as incident details. Age at first incident was calculated using the date of the incident and the youth’s date of birth. Race and ethnicity were combined for this analysis. Race was categorized as one of the following: White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or any combination of the aforementioned categories (regarded as two or more race/ethnicities). Under ethnicity the possible categories were Hispanic, White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Missing, or two or more. For this analysis, under the combined race/ethnicity variable, a youth could be one of the following: Non-Hispanic White, Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black or African American, Hispanic Black or African American, Non-Hispanic Asian, Hispanic Asian, Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Hispanic Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or two or more race/ethnicities (a combination of any of the aforementioned categories).

Case Details

Details of a client’s case were verified in FACTS from the preliminary inquiry (interview). For this analysis, details regarding the type and severity of crime committed by the youth during their first petitioned offense were gathered. Other data captured and used for this analysis included whether the crime was an assault (yes/no), related to drug use (yes/no), a weapon-related crime (yes/no), or a property crime (yes/no).


A recidivism event was marked when a client returned to the juvenile justice system due to a second petitioned charge. For this analysis, we were interested in the number of months between a client’s first and second petitioned charges. All dates of initial charges and future charges were captured in FACTS. Clients were determined to have an event (variable event = 1) if they had a second petitioned charge during the time period between January 2002 and March 2013. For clients who did not have a second petitioned charge (event = 0), the time between their first petitioned charge and March 31, 2013 (the last date for which data were captured prior to being pulled from FACTS) was calculated. For all time calculations, incident dates were used for measuring time instead of charge date, as the incident date is a more accurate measure of when the alleged behavior occurred. Charge dates depend on when juvenile probation offices receive citations and/or police reports.

Statistical Procedures

All analyses were completed using STATA v.12 (College Station, TX). All variable comparisons were analyzed with either a chi-square or t-test analysis for categorical and continuous variables, respectively. Recidivism was measured by using a Kaplan-Meier survival estimate. A Cox Proportional Hazard Model was used to evaluate the effects of variables on recidivism. Recidivism was captured as having more than one juvenile justice petitioned charge from January 2002 through March 2013 (event = 1 for youth with two or more juvenile justice charges, and event = 0 for youth with only one juvenile justice charge).

Only cases leading to a petitioned charge were used for this analysis because these represent the more serious offenses, as well as the habitual clients. Limitations of using either incident date or charge date have been noted previously (Harris, Lockwood, & Mengers, 2009; Ryan, Williams, & Courtney 2013).


In the New Mexico NCANDS report (1998–2011) there were 340,730 reports to statewide central intake for 191,046 New Mexico residents. The NCANDS data set was then merged with juvenile justice records from January 2002 through March 2013. A unique identifier (person ID number) was captured in both data sets, made possible by the unique case management system in New Mexico that provides data collection for both JJS and PS.

The juvenile justice file contained 148,552 charges for juveniles between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. There were 34,790 unique clients. When these two data sets were merged, 11,956 (34.4%) of JJS clients had a history of PS involvement as defined by the presence of an NCANDS record and a juvenile justice petitioned charge record. Of the juveniles with a history of PS, 5,277 clients had substantiated PS involvement, with the remainder of the reports being either unsubstantiated claims (N = 6,595) or the investigations were closed due to the absence of findings (N = 84).

A comparison of demographics between youth with prior substantiated PS involvement and youth with no prior PS involvement indicated that these two groups differed significantly by sex, race/ethnicity, age at first petitioned referral, first crime type, first crime severity, crimes of assault, weapon-related crimes, crimes involving drugs/alcohol, and mean number of petitioned charges during the 2002–2013 time period (Table 1). In the logistic regression analysis of sex and race/ethnicity (independent variables) by PS status in our juvenile justice population, we observed that females were twice as likely to have a history of substantiated PS involvement as males (OR = 2.14; 95% CI: 2.00-2.28; see Table 2). Compared to Non-Hispanic White juvenile justice youth, African American youth and youth who identified with two or more races/ethnicities had higher odds of PS involvement. Juvenile justice–involved youth who identified as Native American had decreased odds of PS involvement (OR = 0.83; p-value = 0.007). Both Hispanic and Asian juvenile justice clients had decreased odds of PS involvement compared to Non-Hispanic White clients, but these were not significant at an alpha 0.05 level.

Table 1. Population Demographics (N = 27,983 clients)


Substantiated PS Involvement



N (%)






< 0.001


3,344 (63.5)

17,919 (78.5)


1,926 (36.5)

4,806 (21.5)


< 0.001

Non-Hispanic White

1,252 (23.7)

5,375 (23.5)


3,202 (60.7)

14,354 (62.9)

African American

205 (3.9)

704 (3.1)


7 (0.1)

54 (0.2)

American Indian

338 (6.4)

1,706 (7.5)

Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian

0 (0.0)

12 (0.1)

2+ Race/Ethnicities

271 (5.1)

613 (2.7)

Age at First Petitioned Charge (Years)

Mean (SD)

15.0 (1.7)

15.9 (1.5)

< 0.001




First Crime Type

< 0.001


3,248 (61.5)

13,198 (57.8)


1,839 (34.9)

9,054 (39.6)

City Ordinance

38 (0.7)

139 (0.6)

Status Offense

2 (0.1)

6 (0.1)

Not Applicable for Probation Violation

150 (2.8)

437 (1.9)

First Crime Degree/Severity

< 0.001

Class A: 1st Degree Felony

64 (1.2)

189 (0.8)

Class B: 2nd Degree Felony

63 (1.2)

373 (1.6)

Class C: 3rd Degree Felony

385 (7.3)

1,823 (8.0)

Class D: 4th Degree Felony

1,327 (25.1)

6,669 (29.2)

Class E: High Misdemeanor

1,415 (26.8)

5,448 (23.9)

Class F: Petty Misdemeanor

2,021 (38.3)

8,321 (36.4)

None or Missing Information

2 (0.1)

11 (0.1)

First Crime-Assault

< 0.001


1,723 (32.7)

5,249 (23.0)


3,554 (67.4)

17,585 (77.0)

First Crime-Property Crime



1,689 (32.0)

7,353 (32.2)


3,588 (68.0)

15,481 (67.8)

First Crime-Weapon Related Crime



586 (11.1)

2,800 (12.3)


4,691 (88.9)

20,034 (87.7)

First Crime-Drugs/Alcohol

< 0.001


834 (15.8)

5,439 (23.8)


4,443 (84.2)

17,395 (76.2)

Number of Petitioned Charges

Mean (SD)

5.4 (5.8)

3.7 (4.2)

< 0.001




Number of Clients with > 5 incidents

1,694 (32.1)

4,129 (18.1)

< 0.001

Number of Clients with > 10 incidents

760 (14.4)

1,455 (6.4)

< 0.001

Number of Clients Under 13 years During First Crime (Child Delinquent Status)

554 (10.5)

822 (3.6)


*116 clients were missing Sex information.

β 18 Clients were missing Race/Ethnicity information.

T-test completed for continuous variables and chi-square test for categorical variables.


Table 2. Logistic Regression of Substantiated PS Involvement by Demographics (N = 27,983)


Odds Ratio









< 0.001



Non-Hispanic White






African American








American Indian




Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian*




2+ Race/Ethnicities


< 0.001


* Due to small numbers (N = 12), the Race/Ethnicity category of Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian dropped out of the model.

A Kaplan-Meier survival analysis using the log-rank test indicated a significant difference in recidivism rates by PS involvement (χ2 (2) = 953.67; p < 0.001; see Figure 1). The lines on the graph represent the percentage of youth who “survived” to that time point without a second incident leading to a petition charge. At 12 months after the first petition charge, 67% of youth with no history of PS involvement did not reoffend compared to 54% of youth with a history of substantiated PS involvement. At 36 months, 59% of youth with no history of PS involvement did not reoffend compared to 39% of those with substantiated claims. In 2 years (12 to 36 months), reoffense rates among youth with no PS involvement dropped by 8% compared to a 15% drop among those with substantiated PS involvement.

Figure 1. Kaplan-Meier Survival Curve for Recidivism among petitioned New Mexico Youth (records from 2002-2013).

Figure 1. Kaplan-Meier Survival Curve for Recidivism among petitioned New Mexico Youth (records from 2002-2013).

Using a Cox Proportional Hazard Model to evaluate the effects of certain demographic characteristics on the time to recidivate in this population, we found PS involvement (unsubstantiated or substantiated), being Hispanic, African American, or identifying as having two or more races/ethnicities (compared to identifying as being Non-Hispanic White) significantly increased the hazard of recidivating. For those identifying as female, Pacific Islander, and for each yearly increase in age at first petitioned charge, the hazard of recidivating decreased (Table 3).

Table 3. Cox Proportional Hazard Model for Time to Recidivate in a Juvenile Justice Population (N = 34,644)


Odds Ratio




PS Involvement

No PS Involvement


PS Involvement


< 0.001



Non-Hispanic White




< 0.001


African American


< 0.001






American Indian




Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian*




2+ Race/Ethnicities


< 0.001







< 0.001


Age at First Petitioned Charge


< 0.001


* Only 18 clients identified as Pacific Islander Race/Ethnicity.


Much of the research on the effects of child abuse has focused on the behavioral and mental development of the children as adults. Current juvenile justice research has focused on behavioral interventions and treatments for both the youth and the youth’s family members. Our study is a blend of youth involved in juvenile justice and a retrospective analysis of the contributions of child abuse and neglect on youth and adolescent outcomes. We have shown that in the New Mexico population of juvenile justice offenders, youth with a history of substantiated PS involvement are more likely to become habitual offenders and are more likely to reoffend in a shorter period of time than youth without a history of PS involvement. Further comparative analysis has shown that female juvenile justice–involved youth and African American youth are more likely to have PS involvement.

In the state of New Mexico, the youth population (10 to 17 years) has been on the decline for the past 8 years, declining, on average, at a rate of 1,103 youths per year (Figure 2). During the same time period, the rate of juvenile justice charges leading to petitions has also declined by, on average, 317 petitioned referrals per year. Crime among youth in New Mexico continues to be a problem, and research regarding interventions that target specific groups before they become habitual offenders may be warranted based on the findings reported here.

Figure 2. Total population of children age 10–17 years by number of juvenile justice petitioned charges: 2003–2011.

Figure 2. Total population of children age 10–17 years by number of juvenile justice petitioned charges: 2003–2011.

* JJS Charges that led to petitions (did not include informally handled incidents).

Multiple charges for one incident were grouped as one incident.

A report by the California Youth Authority is consistent with our results, showing that youth with a history of child welfare records were significantly younger at first admission, were somewhat less likely to be incarcerated for a violent crime, and were more frequently female compared to youth entering the California Youth Authority without a history of child welfare records (Jonson-Reid & Barth, 1998). On average in New Mexico, youth with a substantiated PS background were 15.0 years old at the time of their first serious petitioned crime (charge leading to petition) compared to youth without a PS history, who were 15.9 years old.

In the 2010 census, 2.9 million Americans identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, roughly 0.9% of the total U.S. population (Norris, Vines, & Hoeffel, 2012). New Mexico was ranked as having the fourth largest American Indian and Alaska Native population among all 50 states. The results of our analysis indicate that Native American children involved in the juvenile justice system are less likely to be involved with protective services than Non-Hispanic White juvenile justice–involved youth. These results could be misleading due to the small number of Native American youth observed in this study. Previous research has shown underreporting of child abuse/neglect in Native American populations to state child protection agencies (Cross & Simmons, 2008). The NCANDS report does not include reports of abuse/neglect made to tribal child welfare systems. For this analysis, all of the child protective service data were extracted from the state of New Mexico NCANDS reports.

In a recidivism study of 580 juvenile offenders released from out-of-home placement, 52.2% of the offenders reoffended within 18 months of release (Minor, Wells, & Angel, 2008). Males were more likely to recidivate than females, but youth with a sexual abuse history were less likely to reoffend than youth without a sexual abuse history (Minor et al., 2008). Our results were similar in the overall recidivism rate when offenders were followed for 18 months. Our results indicate that recidivism risk is significantly higher among youth with a PS history, but for this analysis we did not separate youth by specific types of abuse. Future analysis separating youth by abuse type is recommended. A second study of recidivism among 173 males showed that prior involvement with child welfare was not significantly related to recidivism risk (Calley, 2012). Our study included females, whom studies have shown have a higher risk of child welfare involvement than males (Cauffman, 2008). However, in another study, it is unclear whether child welfare involvement was collected via guardian self-report, or whether the researchers were able to gather this information from state documents and databases (Minor et al., 2008). Compared to these studies, our study included more than 25,000 clients followed for an extended period of time in an ethnically and racially diverse population that included both males and females.

Children involved in PS are affected not only in adolescence but much later, into adulthood. Children who experience child abuse are more likely to experience lower levels of education, lower earnings from employment, and accrue fewer assets as adults, compared to children who did not experience child abuse (Currie & Widom, 2010). Our study showed that females in the juvenile justice population were more likely to be involved with PS than males. The study by Currie and Widom (2010) showed that females involved with PS will have fewer years of school and lower IQ scores during young adulthood (approximate age 29 years) and will be less likely to be employed, have a bank account, own a vehicle, and own a home than women with no history of PS involvement (Currie & Widom, 2010). Not only are these females (and males) robbed of a safe and happy childhood, but the lingering effects of abuse leading to PS involvement will follow them into their adulthood. From a public health standpoint, there are many opportunities for interventions to occur once this target population of children has been identified. These interventions would save taxpayers from the cost of juvenile and adult incarceration, and provide these youth with the skills and motivation needed to become well-adjusted adults.

In a study supported by the National Institute of Justice, a group of children (N = 1,575) were followed from childhood through adulthood to measure the percentage of children who would be involved with the justice system both as children and adults (Widom, 1992). One of the hypotheses that researchers were testing was the “cycle of violence,” which suggests that children with a history of physical abuse are predisposed to violence in later years. The study showed that being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59%, as an adult by 28%, and for a violent crime by 30% (Widom & Maxfield, 2001). The results of this study support the results of our study, indicating that youth with a history of PS involvement are more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system than youth who have no such involvement. The study by Widom & Maxfield (2001) goes one step further, however, by following the youth through adulthood, showing that these same youth have a higher likelihood of committing crimes as adults.

This study is not without limitations. The first limitation is that the capture dates for both data sets (NCANDS and FACTS) do not completely overlap. The JJ population in New Mexico comprises clients between the ages of 10 and 18 years. There are a few exceptions in which committed youth could stay in a facility up to the age of 21 years, depending on their offense and commitment obligation. Children who had PS involvement in 2011 would likely be too young to be in the juvenile justice system at the time this study was conducted. Likewise, children who were 10 years old or older in 2002, or who were born in 1992 or earlier, would have been too young to be captured in the 1998 NCANDS data. Therefore, there was a small window for client overlap between PS and juvenile justice involvement in this study. Most likely, the percentage of clients with both PS involvement and juvenile justice involvement is a conservative estimate. A second limitation of this study concerned clients whose first petitioned charge occurred at an older age (16+), and who therefore had less time overall for repeat offenses. After age 18, clients would be referred to the adult system and no longer followed in the juvenile justice system. Future research might include a survival analysis of juvenile clients, including data on their involvement in the adult system. A third limitation is that only the history of juvenile justice petitions and PS allegations that occurred in New Mexico were included in this study. Due to the proximity of New Mexico to bordering states and Mexico, interstate and international client history, which may have yielded salient information, was not available.


Youth with a history of PS involvement have a greater risk of earlier delinquency and recidivism compared to youth without a history of PS involvement. In addition, compared to those with no PS involvement, adolescents with a PS history are at increased risk for multiple referrals/arrests and at increased risk for an assault-related crime charge, indicating that youth with prior PS involvement appear to be more violent at a younger age. This study extends the current literature by investigating the relationship between youth involved in both PS and juvenile justice. The results from this study suggest that collaboration between PS and juvenile justice agencies is critical and that youth with a prior history of PS involvement should be targeted for early intervention.

About the Authors

Victoria F. Dirmyer, PhD, is an epidemiologist with the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, Juvenile Justice Services (JJS) Data Analysis Unit.

Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD, is bureau chief for New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, Protective Services (PS) Research Assessment and Data Bureau.


Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013). Reducing youth incarceration in the United States. (Kids Count Data Snapshot). The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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