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Changing How the System Responds to Status Offenders: Connecticut's Families with Service Needs Initiative


  • Acknowledgments: This project was funded by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division.



Concerned by the number of status offenders in secure detention and the processing of noncriminal behavior through the juvenile and family courts, Connecticut began efforts to reform their approach to troubled and troublesome youth in 2005 (Weithorn, 2005). Between 2005 and 2007, Connecticut enacted a series of legislative changes to both improve services for troubled youth and Families with Service Needs (FWSN), and achieve systematic reforms for processing status offenses. At a systems level, the reforms sought to divert non-criminal behaviors from formal court processing and prevent secure confinement for status offenders who violated court orders related to their behavior. Connecticut's attempt at second-order, or system change, is the focus of this outcome evaluation.