OJJDP Awards NCCD’s Center for Girls and Young Women $1.5 Million to Establish a National Girls Institute
November 8, 2010
A National Girls Institute to provide evidence-based, gender-specific information, training, and technical assistance is being established at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency with a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Nationally, girls are the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population. States and local jurisdictions, long invested in responding to the needs of boys, lack the tools and knowledge to deal with this influx. Current programs for justice-involved youth are ill equipped to effectively address the unique needs of girls. Professionals are frequently frustrated with the lack of information, available services, and training in best practices. “Girls continue to be inappropriately placed in facilities and programs designed for boys,” said Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, Director of the NCCD Center for Girls and Young Women.
The juvenile justice system’s current failure to effectively address girls’ needs has created a major public health and social welfare concern with severe short- and long-term consequences. Most justice-involved girls do not pose a public safety risk; yet girls are too frequently arrested and incarcerated. This practice has led to a fast-growing number of girls in the system, most of whom would be better served by community-based programs and appropriate treatment options. “The National Girls Institute represents a real opportunity to bring critical change to the frequently misguided way we treat and address the needs of girls in this country. Girls deserve effective treatment, and when supervision is truly warranted, it should be appropriate,” said Alexander Busansky, NCCD President.
The situation is compounded by the fact that girls also present with high rates of abuse, victimization, and serious mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and prior attempts at self-harm and suicide. Ineffective interventions also result in a host of problems as girls become adults, including poor physical and mental health, substance dependence, and 2 future arrests and incarceration. Justice-involved girls are also at a higher risk as adults of becoming involved in violent domestic relationships, of dysfunctional parenting, and of losing custody of their children.
Despite research and evidence documenting gender differences in offending and pathways to delinquency, girls have historically been a low priority. For many years, NCCD has worked to draw needed attention to the plight of girls in the justice system. Most recently, in 2009, Dr. Ravoira called on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security to address the crisis and overhaul current policies and practices.
To respond to these urgent needs, OJJDP’s grant will provide for national training and technical assistance for promising practices in girls’ delinquency prevention, intervention, and treatment. The National Girls Institute will be headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, but will serve the needs of girls across the entire country. “We will research, pilot, and implement services designed to meet the specific needs of girls,” Dr. Ravoira said. “We look forward to working with and drawing on the knowledge and experience of the many professionals across the country who have devoted their careers to helping girls.”
A grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to NCCD launched NCCD’s Center for Girls and Young Women in 2008. “We are delighted with their early success,” noted Sherry Magill, president of the duPont Fund. “We knew when we invested in the Center that its work would protect girls and young women and create smart public policies.”