In the lead up to Transition to Independence Month in November, CREATE’s Youth Justice Reportwas recently released, which surveyed 148 young people from out-of-home care on their experiences with the justice system to better understand the disproportionate representation of young people from out-of-home care in the justice system.
The report identified three distinct groups based on type of contact with the justice system: offenders, young people reported as missing, and victims. Similar factors appeared to motivate young people to offend and to run away from placement, including becoming frustrated by triggers in their care environment, the need to protect themselves from unsafe situations, and the importance of maintaining a peer group. The majority of offenders and young people who were absent from placement described experiencing intense anxiety and fear during their interactions with the police and courts, as well as feeling the police were unfairly antagonistic. Victims described being let down by the justice system. Most participants reported receiving no support during their initial interactions and perceived the justice system to discriminate against young people in care.
Informed by these findings, a number of recommendations were advanced in the report to improve the nature of contact between young people with care experiences and the justice system. These included that the justice system overall should adopt a trauma-informed approach to interacting with young people with care experiences, appropriate and comprehensive case planning to identify and minimise risk factors for offending or leaving placement, and improving the level of support received by young people who have interactions with the justice system.