February 17, 2009

Study: Youths struggle after detention

Children who pass through Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago have long-lasting psychological problems, researchers say.

Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that three years after youths ages 13 to 22 had been detained at the center, 90 percent were struggling with their lives and more than 20 percent were severely impaired.

This study highlights that we have failed to provide effective rehabilitation for these kids. We need to intervene early, said Karen Abram, lead author and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. There is a dearth of services for these kids. They need help in multiple areas over a sustained period of time.

Abram said services at the detention center should include wraparound services in which an interdisciplinary team of professionals develop a treatment plan and service agencies work together to provide appropriate care for troubled youths.

These kids need alternatives to their criminal lifestyle, Abram said. We need to provide effective services. If we don't, there are ongoing costs, both to these kids and to society.

The study, which sampled 1,653 males and females, was published on-line in the Journal of Adolescent Health and will appear in the print edition in the spring.