Research of Note for May 2006

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report
U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention/National Center for Juvenile Justice
Available at  

After a seven-year hiatus, the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has again released one of the country’s most thorough compendiums of data about youth in the United States.

Using information from hundreds of federal, state, local and academic sources, the report gives readers the most recent statistics available on youth from the fields of child welfare, law enforcement and juvenile justice. It also provides new insights by combining and comparing those statistics – normally housed in the proprietary “silos” of their fields of origin – in innovative and interesting ways.

The report offers more than 110 one- to two-page “snapshots” on topics such as school dropouts, victimization risk factors, time-of-day analysis of juvenile offending, police dispositions of juvenile arrests, offense profiles by gender, and lengths of stay for juveniles in custody.

Among the findings:

* The nation’s juvenile population is rising at a rate consistent with the projected growth of the general population and is expected to grow by 36 percent from 2000 to 2020. The proportion of youth from birth to age 17 in the population should remain constant through 2050, at about 25 percent.

However, the racial makeup of the juvenile population will change substantially: From 2000 to 2020, growth will be much higher for youth of Asian and Hispanic descent (59 percent and 58 percent increases, respectively) youth than for those who are Native American (16 percent), black (9 percent) or white (7 percent).

* Youth ages 7 to 17 are about as likely to die by suicide as by homicide. From 1981 to 2001, juvenile suicide victims outnumbered juvenile murder victims in 33 states.

* Between 1998 and 2003, the number of children entering foster care remained fairly stable, while the number exiting increased slightly. An estimated 523,000 children were in foster care on September 30, 2002, which was 7 percent fewer than on that day in 1999.

Reunification with parents was the most common way for children to exit foster care in 2002 (56 percent). Another 18 percent of those who exited were adopted. From 1998 to 2003, the number of children adopted from foster care increased by 40 percent.

* Of the 385,400 delinquency cases adjudicated in 2002, 62 percent resulted in orders for formal probation, and 23 percent resulted in orders to place youth in residential facilities – a 44 percent increase in placement orders since 1985.

* The juvenile custody rate on Oct. 22, 2003 (“census day”) was 307 offenders in custody for every 100,000 youth in the general population. Although 60 percent of juvenile facilities in 2003 were privately operated, 60 percent of juvenile offenders were housed in public facilities. The number of delinquent youth in public facilities rose 36 percent from 1991 to 1999, then dropped 13 percent by 2003. The number in private facilities rose 95 percent from 1991 to 1999 and declined 4 percent from 1999 to 2003.

* While the news media routinely report on the homicide deaths of children whose maltreatment had been reported to child welfare agencies, the report presents these facts: Among maltreatment fatalities that occurred in 2003, 11 percent involved children “whose families had received family preservation services from a CPS [child protective services] agency in the previous five years, and 3 percent involved children who had been in foster care and reunited with their families in the previous five years.”

* In 2002, the number of homicides committed by juveniles dropped to its lowest level since 1984. Between 1994 and 2002, the number of murders involving juvenile offenders declined 65 percent. About 80 percent of the decline is attributable to a drop in the murder of non-family members by juvenile males using firearms. Most of that drop was in the number of minority males killing other minority males.

The report – previously released in 1995 and 1999 – was co-authored by Howard Snyder, director of systems research, and Melissa Sickmund, senior research associate, both of the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), under contract with the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

Weighing in at 250 pages, and sporting glossy graphics, eye-catching fonts, warm colors and a surprisingly narrative writing style (for a government publication), the report looks and reads like a modern online encyclopedia – an assessment sure to make Sickmund happy.

“It’s in a very user-friendly kind of style, where each little tidbit is contained on its own,” she says. “You don’t have to read the whole thing to get it. You can look at a headline, a column of text, a little paragraph, a graph, or just the bullets, and then put it away.”

She hopes that’s especially valuable for policymakers, who “have maybe five minutes a day to think about something like this. …
“Howard [Snyder] jokes, ‘In your office, put it in the bathroom.’ It’s that kind of a thing.”

PDF and HTML versions are available free on OJJDP’s website, as are PowerPoint slides of the graphs and tables, and Excel spreadsheets containing the data points used in the graphs.

NCJJ has also added the new data from the report to OJJDP’s online Statistical Briefing Book, which it maintains. The book ( includes “Easy Access” tools to help users build their own state- and county-level comparison tables.

“We try to make the data much more accessible to people, so that they can use them,” Sickmund says, everyone from “some very highbrow researcher-type people … to the White House, down to sixth-graders, and everybody in between.”