Contact with the youth justice system: Experience of young people in out-of-home care

Ms Kate Tillack1

1Create Foundation, , Australia

Young people with a care experience are over-represented in the youth justice system. To understand this over-representation and to develop policy and practice change to address this issue, CREATE facilitated structured interviews with 148 young people with a care experience throughout Australia. These young people had contact with the criminal justice system as victims, offenders or for being absent from their placement. They provided important insights into how they became involved with the justice system, their treatment by justice system personnel, the support they received during their interactions, and the outcome of their involvement in the justice system. Most participants reported receiving no support during their initial interaction with police, at court, or in detention, and perceived the justice system as discriminating against young people in care. The police were perceived to lack an ability to build rapport with young people, and young people felt police personnel did not take into consideration the influence of trauma on their behaviour. These findings have implications for child protection caseworkers, out-of-home care service providers, youth justice professionals, and frontline police.

Recommendations for improved practice include: (a) the youth justice system adopting a trauma-informed approach; (b) appropriate case planning and case management around offending behaviour and absences from placement; (c) clarifying the roles and expectation of child protection workers and caregivers to ensure young people are appropriately supported during youth justice interaction; and (d) concerted efforts from the sector to combat stigma associated with being in out-of-home care.


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