This article was originally published by the Vera Institute of Justice in December 2008. Until recently, youth who may be chronically disobedient but not committing crime were frequently referred to juvenile court and subject to the same punitive interventions as youth charged with criminal activity. To better help youth and their families, many status offender systems are implementing immediate, family-focused alternatives to court intervention, first referring at-risk young people and their families to social service programs in their communities and using the juvenile justice system as a last resort. The new paradigm is guided by the belief that given help and support, families have the potential to resolve issues without the courts. This paper highlights successful reforms based on this new paradigm in Connecticut, Florida, and New York.

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