Services for Justice Involved Girls: A “One Size Fits All” Approach is Not the Answer

Girls follow many pathways into the juvenile justice system. They are more likely than their male counterparts to enter the system for a lesser infraction or crime, or to be more harshly punished for even a minor probation violation. Girls are also more prone to have experienced trauma, have a diagnosed mental health problem and be a victim of physical and sexual abuse than the boys in the system.

A “one size fits all” approach for services provided to justice-involved youth does not work. Services designed around developmental or rehabilitative issues facing boys miss the mark for girls. The failure to provide services specifically designed for girls can cause a spike in recidivism.

Recent research shows there’s a high proportion of unmet needs for all justice-involved girls before, during and after the time they are in contact with the juvenile justice system. Girls who are developmentally challenged are especially underserved due to a lack of understanding and awareness coupled with a severe shortage of appropriate programs and supports.

Service Failures Lead to Reoffending

Service gaps and failure can lead girls to be chronically involved with the criminal justice system and rely on public assistance for longer periods. They also experience adverse health outcomes. The goal should be to reduce the factors interfering with justice involved girls to become contributing members of society. This often involves ensuring access to high quality girl-centered therapeutic services.


  • Allocate recurring funding for Girls Matter: Continuity of Care Model: This proven model developed in NE Florida improves access to therapeutic services and advocacy within a continuity of care for girls who are on probation, in detention, in residential placement or transitioning back to the local community.
  • Invest in programs that are gender specific and address developmental disabilities: Gender specific programming, therapeutic service and aftercare for girls post-contact with the juvenile justice system will improve long-term outcomes.
  • Increase awareness about the issues facing girls: Citizens support specialized services to girls, but lack information in order to take action.

What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…

Additional Resources

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