Every year, thousands of young people are brought to court, held in detention, and placed in locked facilities for status offenses—noncriminal behaviors, such as skipping school or running away, that are illegal only because kids are under 18.

Kids charged with status offenses are not just “acting out.” Often, these behaviors arise due to a complex array of student, school, family, and community-level factors. Unfortunately, courts are not designed to quickly assess and respond to such needs, and detention and out-of-home placements can become a default option, which only exacerbate youths’ circumstances.

As more states confront the high fiscal and social cost of punitive approaches, they are exploring ways to keep these youth out of courts and in their communities whenever possible. To help propel these efforts and ensure that youth successfully transition into adulthood, Vera is now working in different states to help create more community-based and family-focused responses for these cases.

Project Objectives

  • To plan and implement appropriate local policies, practices and programs that can support young people and families before their cases get referred to court.

  • To serve as a model for handling status offense cases outside of court that could potentially be replicated in other localities across different states.