Functional Impairment in Youth Three Years after Detention

Several years after being held in a juvenile detention center, more than half of a sample of young people had severe impairments in their abilities to function within their communities.

This study investigated the behavior of young people who participated in the Northwest Juvenile Project, a study of youth arrested and detained at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center (CCJDC) in Chicago between 1995 and 1998. For this report, researchers conducted follow-up interviews three and a half years after participants were detained at CCJDC. Interviewers completed functional impairment ratings using the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS). CAFAS assessed behavior in eight domains, including: School/Work, Home, Community, Behavior Toward Others, Moods/Emotions, Self-Harmful Behavior, Substance Use, and Thinking. Participants received an impairment score for each domain. The sum of the scores determined each participant’s overall level of functional impairment.

Key Findings:

  • Of those youth with marked overall behavioral impairment (21.6%), 65 percent had severe impairment in at least three of the eight domains.
  • More African-American females than males were impaired in the Self-Harmful Behavior domain.

Previous studies of the juvenile justice system employed limited behavioral measures and were not representative of the substantial minority and female populations that now comprise juvenile offenders.