Every year, thousands of kids are brought to court or even placed in locked facilities for misbehaviors like truancy, running away, and curfew violations—also known as status offenses—which are only illegal for kids under the age of 18. While these behaviors can be typical in adolescence, they can also be symptomatic of underlying issues at home or in school that require closer attention.

Using the justice system to respond to these cases makes little sense, particularly when the primary options available to law enforcement, judges, and other system players relate to protecting public safety, not addressing kids’ needs. Since the early 2000s, Vera has worked with many state and local leaders, practitioners, and policymakers to rethink their policies, practices, and programs for these young people and offer family-focused, community-based support outside of the juvenile justice system. Through the Status Offense Reform Center, we help jurisdictions eliminate the use of justice-based responses to status offenses and reposition families, communities, and other child-serving systems to more effectively provide young people with the additional guidance and support they need. Over the last 10 years, we have worked in many states, including Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, Washington State, and Wisconsin.

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.