the walls are deliberate and high

  • 70% of young adults in MA state prisons are people of color compared to being only 25% of the overall population

  • 30-50% of homeless youth (ages 18-24) were in the foster care system as kids

  • 72% of Massachusetts youth in juvenile detention were also involved with the Department of Children and Families (foster care)

  • Youth age out of foster care and enter the adult justice system at age 18 while their brains are developing until age 25

  • 43% of women and 74% of men who age out of the foster care system in the United States will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetimes

  • Only 50% of youth in foster care finish high school and only 2-9% graduate with a four-year degree

  • 47% of young adults who age out of foster care are unemployed

  • Detention is a stronger predictor of recidivism than gang involvement; youth committed to detention are 13.5 times more likely to return to the juvenile justice system

the issue:

emerging adult justice

the compounding problem:

  • The cases of youth 18+ are adjudicated in adult court, even though we know the brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25. ​

  • This disproportionally impacts youth of color and youth without family support, like those who are homeless or in foster care.

  • An adult criminal record and experience in adult jail have long term consequences for youth.

our proposal: keep youth out of jail

We need more diversion and more alternatives for youth before they are pushed into the criminal system. When they are involved, emerging adults, aged 18-20, need to move out of the adult justice system and into the more developmentally appropriate juvenile system. While not perfect, the juvenile system offers accountability while still including programming and supports like education requirements, lower recidivism rates, and no adult criminal record hampering jobs or housing.

Read the Fact Sheet

"I spent most of my life in foster care. The first time I got arrested was just a few months after turning 18. I didn’t understand the legal system, what it meant to take a plea, what it meant to have a felony record. With help and advocacy I got through it. I’m now 24, in college, and working, but to get here I had to play so much catch up. If we could raise the age, I wouldn’t have been an 18-year-old making those big decisions."

- Jacob, Graduate and Power is Yours Ambassador

the issue:

the child welfare cliff

the compounding problem:

  • Youth aging out of foster care don't have adequate transition plans, and are not prepared for independence.

  • Few sign on to voluntary services, and there is not enough housing for those who do. Many become homeless.

  • Youth experiencing homlessness are at higher risk of being victimized or arrested, and cannot focus on education or employment.

our proposal: positive transitions

We need better ccountability and increased oversight for transition planning within state agencies, which is currently mandated but not enforced.​ Every youth should be engaged in planning for education, workforce, housing, healthcare, and more, and should access housing resources like Foster Youth to Independence vouchers. We can improve this with legislation, but existing systems, like Court and Family Law (CAFL) attorneys, can do more to support youth within current laws.

Read the Fact Sheet

"I was involved with the Department of Children and Families since age two but didn’t have a transition plan until age 17. That plan was then thrown out due to problems at my group home, and my case was closed. It was only through a lot of advocacy by me and More Than Words that I was able to get support. We need all youth to have plans in place to be successful. We’re just trying to hold this system accountable for what they’re supposed to be doing."

- Janaya, Alumna and Power is Yours Ambassador

join our movement

Contact our team to get involved or find out about the next youth-led community education session on these issues:

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