Skip to content
This search input has a predictive search function. When 3 letters or more are entered, a number of predictive results appear in a dropdown. Use arrow keys to navigate and use the enter key to go to the page highlighted.

    Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice

    Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Fact Sheet

    Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Diversion

    When youth are subject to practices within the justice system, they are at risk for exposure to additional trauma and psychological distress caused by:

    • Physical restraint and seclusion
    • Restricted access to loved ones
    • Invasive strip searches and pat downs

    In addition, the juvenile justice system alone may impede the rehabilitation potential of trauma survivors, as there is a significant positive association between exposure to harsh punishments while incarcerated and continued criminal behavior post-release.

    Steps for System-Level Solution

    Embedding trauma-informed approaches in the juvenile justice system will likely require a systems change. Agencies should identify a champion to manage these processes, e.g. those whose primary responsibilities are with juveniles.

    Cross-collaboration among community members, including health professionals, police officers, educators, and families is key to trauma-informed care providing maximal outcomes.

    People standing together shaking hands

    Formal agreements clearly outlining roles and responsibilities of involved parties set forth an effective cross-system policy framework, especially for agencies serving overlapping populations.

    Effective information and data sharing allows care team members, the youth, and family/caregivers to have a mutual understanding of the youth’s strengths and needs.

    As there is no dedicated source of funding for the design and implementation of trauma-informed care, financial support such as grants needs to be obtained to cover the services for indigent families and juveniles without health insurance.

    Key Approaches for Youth's Delinquent Behavior:

    Collaborative and Trustworthy Environment

    When working with youth involved in the juvenile justice system, it is important for staff to encourage open and honest communication to find a mutually agreeable arrangement.

    The atmosphere of agency offices should be safe and non-threatening and avoid exacerbating the power differential staff and youth. This promotes an indication of the inappropriateness of the action in a firm but calm manner.

    Youth Empowerment

    Amplifying youth voices and empowering youth to participate in the decision-making process can have resoundingly positive impacts on the efficacy of trauma- diversion programs. Approaches for youth engagement include:

    • Foster a safe and supportive atmosphere, including using motivational interview techniques to assure that they feel protected
    • Allow the youth to share their story, validate their experiences, and recognize the courage it takes to share
    • Implement calming strategies to regulate the youth’s emotions

    Embrace Comprehensive Continuum of Care

    Care must be continuous until the person is rehabilitated to function without ongoing support.

    Practitioners should take special precaution to avoid gaps in care, provide comprehensive treatment, and include appropriate therapeutic modalities, family approaches, and psycho-pharmacological intervention.


    Work with trauma-informed care systems and community coalitions to raise awareness of childhood violence and Adverse Childhood Experiences and emphasize the necessity of child protection.


    Traumatic event exposure and trauma symptomatology Integrate screening for traumatic event exposure into existing mental health and substance use screening procedures to streamline the process and maintain a reasonable staff workload.


    Utilize multiple evaluation tools to review youth’s history of the exposure, identify symptoms and their impact on life functioning, resulting in a care plan to meet the needs.

    Effective Treatment Methods

    Incorporate strategies for addressing poly-victimization and complex traumas should be utilized while determining utilized while determining treatment needs.

    Continued Supports Following Discharge from Care

    Help youth understand the importance of a follow-up appointment. They also many need additional supports in other areas of life, connecting them with resources is critical. This may include supports in their home or at school.

    Download the Trauma Informed Juvenile Justice Fact Sheet (.pdf)