• children;
  • child maltreatment;
  • child welfare system;
  • out-of-home care;
  • juvenile detention;
  • juvenile justice facility;
  • foster parents;
  • recidivism;
  • attention deficit disorder;
  • conduct disorder;
  • depression;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • bipolar disorder

This study examined the effect of specific mental health disorders on the risk of juvenile justice system involvement and subsequent recidivism among maltreated children placed in out-of-home care. The sample was comprised of all children in Florida aged 7–17 years who were investigated for maltreatment and subsequently placed in out-of-home care between July 1, 2004, and June 30, 2005 (N = 5,720). Presence of mental health disorders and absence of a caregiver were both significantly associated with juvenile justice involvement. Among all examined mental health disorders, conduct disorder was the strongest predictor of juvenile justice involvement. Findings also indicated that, compared to children who did not have identified mental health disorders, children diagnosed with mental health disorders were approximately 80% more likely to experience recidivism. Implications of these findings are discussed.