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February 2005Vol. 6, No. 1Improving the Handling of Dual Jurisdiction Cases

Research has established that there is a strong correlation between child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency. Moreover, it is not uncommon for the same youth to be simultaneously involved in both the child dependency and delinquency systems. These "dual jurisdiction" cases can present difficult challenges for both systems, yet in most jurisdictions there is little coordination or communication between the systems. This lack of coordination can lead to duplication of case management efforts and conflicting case plan goals and, ultimately, poor outcomes for the youth and his or her family.

A new technical assistance bulletin, When Systems Collide: Improving Court Practices and Programs in Dual Jurisdiction Cases, has been released by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ). This bulletin attempts to identify promising court-based or court-linked practices that can effectively address the difficult challenges posed by dual jurisdiction cases. The authors surveyed 94 jurisdictions, conducted a literature review, and drew from their own experience in working with court systems to identify five categories of court practices that show promise in effective handling of dual jurisdiction cases. These categories include:

  • Screening and assessment to ensure that juveniles with dual involvement are identified and their needs properly assessed
  • Assignment of cases to judges, attorneys, and other personnel who have training in special procedures for handling dual jurisdiction cases
  • Coordinated case flow management
  • Case planning and supervision by teams responsible for coordinating services
  • Interagency collaboration

Some specific tools discussed include use of structured decision-making protocols, one-stop interagency assessment and screening centers that are modeled after the Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) used for child abuse and neglect assessments, and combining dependency and delinquency hearings. Examples of successful court-based programs are highlighted throughout the bulletin.

The report was funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice. The publication is available from the NCJJ website: (PDF - 451 KB)