The reauthorized federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) offers new protections and opportunities to meet the unique needs of some of the most vulnerable kids, especially girls.

With expanded federal funding opportunities, Kentucky’s state advisory group, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB), can submit a plan detailing new state programs, projects, and activities to be implemented over a 3-year period within the youth justice system. Proposals can now include “programs that address the needs of girls in or at risk of entering the juvenile justice system, including pregnant girls, young mothers, survivors of commercial sexual exploitation or domestic child sex trafficking, girls with disabilities, and girls of color including girls who are members of an Indian tribe.”

Because girls who are involved in the youth justice system are extremely likely to have experienced abuse or exploitation prior to their incarceration, there are a few components of JJPDA implementation impacting girls in Kentucky.

Girls who are pregnant or parenting:

  • Every year, JJAB submits a report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on the status and demographics of incarcerated kids. Now, the report must include data on the number of incarcerated girls who report being pregnant.
  • Beginning January 2020, Kentucky will be required to create a plan to eliminate all use of restraints on incarcerated girls who are pregnant, including during labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery, unless she poses a serious and imminent threat to herself or others or she is credibly deemed a flight risk. This plan must be implemented by 2021.
  • The Youth PROMISE (Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) Act provides opportunities for states to address delinquency issues through evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies. Through the JJDPA reauthorization, grant funding opportunities have expanded to include training and education programs for pregnant girls and teen parents. The Commonwealth has the opportunity to secure these funds.

Girls who have been sexually exploited:

  • JJAB must create and implement a plan to provide home-based, community-based, or treatment-based alternatives to detention for commercially sexually exploited kids.
  • JJAB must also provide a description of any policies and procedures in place to screen for, identify, and document victims of domestic human trafficking or those at risk of trafficking, at intake. And they must create and implement a plan to divert them to appropriate programs or services, whenever possible.

This blog is part of a short series describing the changes to the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and opportunities for Kentucky’s kids and families who are involved in the youth justice system or at risk. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information on the impacts of JJPDA in Kentucky.