Evidence of clear links between involvement with the Child Protection system and involvement with the criminal justice system highlights the need for greater support to prevent vulnerable young people from a lifetime of cycling in and out of prison, says Jesuit Social Services.

To mark National Child Protection Week, Jesuit Social Services has completed a snapshot of participants engaged in its range of adult and youth criminal justice programs and found that 60 per cent of participants had Child Protection involvement either as children, as parents or both, and that a percentage of this involvement is current.

The snapshot supports a similar survey published in the Youth Parole Board Annual Report 2014-15 which showed that 62 per cent of current youth parole clients were present or former Child Protection clients.

“Jesuit Social Services has almost 40 years of history working with people who have had contact with the criminal justice system and our experience shows us that young people involved in criminal activity often also have drug and alcohol problems, mental illness and experience homelessness associated with abuse or neglect from a young age,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“Young people who have involvement with Child Protection have generally experienced hardship, neglect and trauma early in life. We must provide additional support to this highly vulnerable group of young people to steer them away from the criminal justice system and help them flourish,” says Ms Edwards.

Ms Edwards says the Victorian Government’s Roadmap to Reform, which will provide coordinated services to meet the needs of vulnerable young people and their families, is a welcome commitment.

“All evidence shows us that the younger a person is when they first have contact with the criminal justice system, the more likely they are to reoffend compared to those who are steered away from the justice system,” says Ms Edwards.

“By providing holistic support to vulnerable children and young people who have had involvement with the Child Protection system, we can help them address the multiple and complex issues in their lives and ultimately create safer communities.”

Jesuit Social Services also supports Home Stretch, a national campaign that aims to raise the age at which a young person leaves out of home care from 18 to 21, in line with parts of England and the USA.

Media enquiries – Kathryn Kernohan, 0409 901 248 or kathryn.kernohan@jss.org.au