"Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community where the composition and outcomes of juvenile courts cannot be predicted by race and/or ethnicity.”~ Judge Louis A. Trosch, Jr. ~ Juvenile Court judge, RMJJ Co- Chair
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, children of color are overrepresented across all public-serving systems and face disparately negative outcomes. They are arrested, charged as delinquents, incarcerated, suspended from school, removed from their families and placed in foster care at significantly higher rates than white youth. These facts are mirrored in other communities across America.
Unlike many other communities however, leadership with juvenile justice, child welfare and education are acknowledging this state of affairs and taking steps to impact change through an initiative called Race Matters for Juvenile Justice (RMJJ). Working collaboratively, these systems are no longer pointing fingers at one another as the source of the problem but "owning" the problem and working collectively to solve it.
RMJJ originated in 2010 when the judges sitting on the juvenile court bench called a meeting of community stakeholders to discuss the overrepresentation of children of color in the courts. Efforts were quickly combined with law enforcement, child welfare and education to form a powerful coalition dedicated to creating a community where the composition and outcomes of juvenile courts cannot be predicted by race or ethnicity.
Through community forums, ongoing meetings and numerous workshops, the child-serving systems of Charlotte-Mecklenburg have come together with community advocates and leaders to formulate strategies to reduce the impact of both individual and institutional racism.
Today, we are pleased to report that leaders and citizens across our region are collectively forging a new path. We are educating ourselves about the historic causes of racial inequities, through a series of "Dismantling Racism" workshops. We are having courageous conversations that require introspection, responsiveness and trust about the influence bias has upon individuals and institutions. And, perhaps most importantly, we are implementing steps designed to level the playing field for children and families of all races.
By understanding the scope of the problem of racial inequities and disparity and its root causes, institutions have been empowered to take real action. The courts have implemented a bench card designed to mitigate both implicit and explicit bias in child abuse and neglect cases. These bench cards, developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, have been shown not just to reduce disparities, but to improve outcomes for all children.
Similarly, many organizations have come together to analyze the school-to-prison pipeline and explore appropriate disciplinary alternatives across all systems. Improving outcomes for children of color through these initiatives also improves outcomes for all children.
Of course, RMJJ will not accomplish its mission easily or quickly. It will be a long journey that requires long-term commitment, and many partners. But we have started down the road. RMJJ offers great promise for both individual and collective understanding that young people are treated differently based on skin color.
It empowers leaders of child-serving systems to recognize the statistics and outcomes for youth within their institutions and collaborate with others to make multi-systemic changes. These changes are slow and incremental, but their promise and impact is clearly emerging. Race matters, but with the support of our community, we can begin to mitigate that impact on our next generation of citizens.
Why examine the issue of race in the juvenile justice system?
Children of color are disproportionately represented in the United States foster care system. In most states, there are higher proportions of African American/Black and Native American children in foster care than in the general population. In some states Hispanic/Latino children are disproportionately represented as well. Children of color face similar disproportionate contact with the Juvenile Justice system. The overrepresentation of children of color is an issue of interest to juvenile justice stakeholders, practitioners, and scholars.
The Child Welfare System
Whereas children of all races are equally as likely to suffer from child abuse and neglect, nationwide the percentage of African-American and other minority children who enter and remain in out-of-home care is greater than their proportion in the population.
Juvenile Delinquency Court
During adolescence, youth of all races become involved in delinquent behavior, but youth of color are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Youth of color in North Carolina are about as likely as white youth to have a juvenile complaint approved for court, but are more than 1.5 times as likely to be held in detention centers prior to adjudication and more than four times as likely to be committed to a secure institution. Moreover, the data shows that disproportionity is at its highest at the most serious stages of the juvenile court process – commitment to YDCs and transfers to adult court. [Sources: Action For Children and/or The Annie E. Casey Foundation]
The Juvenile Judges of the 26th Judicial District of North Carolina and their collaborative community partners formed Race Matters for Juvenile Justice to reduce the disproportionate representation of and disparate outcomes for children and families of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. The purpose of this site is to promote the work of Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, to provide access to related information and resources and to inform the community of opprtunities to get involved.
Race Matters: Get the Facts
Explore how the race of a child or family impacts the outcome achieved when interfacing with systems and institutions.