Juvenile Incarceration and Foster Care the Impact on Kids

Juvenile Jail and the impact on Foster kids

Juvenile Jail and the Impact on Foster Kids

Over 700,000 youths face adjudication in the juvenile justice system each year in the United States.

These individuals have a significantly higher risk for future criminality.

The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) oversees juvenile justice services. DJJ involves law enforcement, mental health professionals, schools, and social services. Other agencies consult ad hoc for individual cases at juvenile detention centers.

Virginia defines a juvenile as anyone under the age of 18 years. Some children in the foster care system have already experienced juvenile incarceration. This often causes additional challenges for the child and the foster family.

Virginia's Juvenile Detention System

Virginia's DJJ uses a different approach for juveniles than for adult prisoners. They're held accountable for their actions and the risk to public safety. Yet, there's a greater focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment.

The term rehabilitation means restoring a person to lead a useful life. These children receive education and therapy during incarceration. The goal is to help them learn how to make better decisions in their life going forward.

Impact of Juvenile Incarceration

The University of Wyoming Associate Law Professor Dona Playton addressed children and incarceration. She states that "locking kids up" increases the probability that they'll commit further crimes.

During their detention, the young people miss school and start falling behind. Often, these children were already struggling to keep up. Often, these children were already struggling to keep up. Incarceration can compound their self-image of incompetence.

They also lose connections within their peer group and community. Family relationships often become more strained.

These children are at high risk of sexual and violent victimization during detention. Playton states that "scared straight" tactics usually don't work.

The child's brain is still advancing through the various stages of development. Thus, they lack the complete control necessary for proper decision-making.

How Criminal Justice System Impacts a Foster Child

Crimes that led to the detention may stem from stressors outside their control. Lack of control creates frustration, and often children lash out with aggression.

Anxiety disorders represent the most widespread condition diagnosed in children. It may be the predecessor to mood, behavior, and substance abuse disorders.

Those with an unstable home life may acquire deep-seated, subconscious anger. When this isn't addressed, it can erupt in violence or criminal behavior. Some of these children may never develop empathy skills or compassion for others. Not acquiring these skills will result in a higher likely hood of juvenile crime or even future adult criminal court.

diagnosis of Psychopathy incorporates callousness, detachment, and trends of people who lack empathy. These characteristics can manifest in early childhood before the age of ten. Yet, this behavior in youth isn't prognostic for becoming an adult psychopath with low emotional intelligence.

Many incarcerated youth are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). Symptoms may initially start during the preschool years. However, it's often a precursor to family, school, and social problems.

The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria require at least six months of behavioral and emotional issues. Examples include irritable moods, anger, vindictiveness, defiance, and argumentative behavior.

Their behavior is incongruent with conventional rules and standards. They often act out by instigating misery in others without any remorse. Other diagnoses may include Conduct.

Disorder and Antisocial Personality.

Examples of behavior include:

  • Irresponsibility
  • Intentionally causing physical harm to people or animals
  • Running away and skipping school
  • Stealing
  • Violating other's rights

Foster children are often removed from their birth homes for abuse or neglect. In addition, negative early life experiences contribute to emotional and behavioral disorders. Residing in foster care and serving correctional facility time is also instrumental in these issues.

Caring for Foster Care of Children After Incarceration

When caring for a foster youth, it's vital to understand that trust is often lost. Their initial home life often didn't provide a safe, healthy, nurturing place. Imprisoning these vulnerable children magnifies their emotional and behavioral issues.

These children may have the following: thoughts or feelings.

Loss of Safety

Children need a stable base to develop healthy growth and learning courage. Incarcerated and foster children have no reliable foundation. They feel a loss of safety, frustration, anger, and a lack of a sense of identity.

In Survival Mode

Many foster children persevere in survival mode while facing repetitive loss. When they're taken from their home, they endure a loss of security. 

This is true even in abusive or neglectful situations. They have no other reference for comparison.

Lack of Control

Decisions about where they live and if they can see their parents or siblings are out of their control. Children may not understand that this is for their safety. Their reality is that a stranger took them away often without an opportunity to say goodbye.

Children in youth prisons face extraordinarily terrifying situations. The guards and other inmates are perceived as threats.

The child must singularly fortify and protect themselves. Their feeling of isolation and lack of control becomes overwhelming.

Lack of Trust

Detention centers and being in the foster system steal a child's innocence. They can't reliably count on love, safety, or even a set routine. Thus, the child loses their sense of trust that their adults will take care of them.

Understanding the potential issues confronting your child gives you the tools needed. Welcome your child into your family calmly. Give them time to process and adjust.

Involve foster children in family routines but wait to give them responsibilities. Be ready and open to listening and answering questions at any time. The child may expect lies, so be honest, keep promises, and immediately meet their needs.

Gradually invite them to hug and cuddle. Remember, physical or sexual abuse victims may associate physical contact with trauma.

Have family discussions about the day's events and how people are feeling. Allow the child to join the conversation and share as they're comfortable. Remember, provide consistent, stable love that meets their physical and emotional needs.

Are You Thinking About Fostering or Adopting?

Foster VA's over 30 professionals help with fostering and adopting in Virginia. In addition, our advocates provide support for foster and adoptive families 24 hours a day. This article discussed fostering children who've experienced juvenile incarceration.

We understand that you have many questions if you're a new foster parent. That's normal, and we want you to know that we've got your back. Our team works to have the best outcome for you and your foster or adopted child.

Contact us today to answer your questions about fostering and adopting in VA.

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