Crossover Children: Examining Initial Criminal Justice System Contact Among Child Protection-Involved Youth

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Child protection-involved youth face increased risk of criminal justice system contact. Such “crossover children” experience earlier police involvement and more serious criminal justice sanctions, yet little is known about their early offending. Using a cross-sectional sample of 300 crossover children before three Victorian Children's Courts in 2016–17, this mixed-methods study examines the nature and context of children's initial police charges. Findings indicate that crossover children are initially charged with disproportionately violent offending, and often incur first police charges around the time of initial care placement. For many, initial criminal justice contact occurred in the context of conflict with caregivers, ongoing maltreatment, and household adversity, or emotional and behavioural regulation challenges. Efforts towards preventing offending for child-protection-involved youth should focus on preventing childhood maltreatment, alongside targeting parent–child relationship challenges, and strengthening community and care system responses that address the impacts of complex trauma, mental health problems, and neurodisability. IMPLICATIONS Compared to all sentenced children, those from statutory child protection backgrounds are charged with more serious offending at their first criminal court adjudication. Among “crossover children”, earlier police charges were seen for Indigenous children, those experiencing greater cumulative maltreatment, and children with emotional or behavioural challenges related to trauma, mental health, and neurodisability. Crossover children are most often first charged by police in the year before, and after, their first out-of-home care placement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-295
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Social Work
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


  • Child Maltreatment
  • Child Welfare
  • Crossover Youth
  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Offending Onset

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