Every year, thousands of youth are brought to court, held in detention, and placed in locked facilities for “status offenses”—noncriminal behaviors like truancy, running away, curfew violations, and underage drinking, which are only prohibited due to their age. Typically, youth charged with these offenses are experiencing an array of underlying issues at home or in school that could be driving their behavior.

Courts are not designed to quickly assess and respond to such needs.  But when faced with limited options to help safeguard a young person who may be “acting out,” detention and out-of-home placement may be used as a default, exacerbating youths’ circumstances and increasing the risk of future delinquent behavior.

Instead, status offenses are best resolved with community-based and family-focused responses. In 2013, Vera joined the Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, which aimed to advance juvenile justice system reform nationwide by providing state and local leaders, practitioners, and policymakers with technical assistance, training, and tools developed through the MacArthur Foundation’s Models For Change Initiative. As part of the partnership, Vera developed the Status Offense Reform Center to educate the field about the need for a community-based approach to status offenses and share resources and information for implementing tangible and sustainable change on the ground. 

Project Objectives

  • To provide status offending youth with community-based and family-focused alternatives to court and juvenile justice system involvement.

  • Expand the field’s knowledge base around different ways of handling status offenses in the community, both from a program and policy perspective.

  • Provide interested local champions and stakeholders with resources and tools that help them convene stakeholders, assess existing systems, and plan and implement effective reforms.