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Crossover Kids: Canadian Perspective


“Crossover youth,” “crossover children,” and “crossover kids” are all relatively recent buzzwords for a vulnerable social group of underage individuals who both suffered from parental mistreatment and engage in deviant behavior. Admittedly, these two factors – parental mistreatment and juvenile delinquency – are intertwined and amplify each other. Family environment, upbringing, and parents’ behavioral patterns teach a young person social norms and define his or her values and aspirations.

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Parental mistreatment, for instance, in the case of a broken home, may make a child or a teenager feel detached, be absent from school, and choose the wrong lifestyle. It is abundantly easy to see why crossover kids face numerous problems that authorities cannot always address effectively. This essay will extend the definition of crossover youth, outline the causes of the examined phenomenon, and discuss the problems of working with such children and teenagers. The paper will also provide possible solutions to tackle this complex issue.

Crossover Kids – Who Are They?

When explaining the phenomenon of the “crossover youth” as a social group, one may give two definitions – a broader and a narrower one. According to the broader definition, as it was mentioned in the introduction, a crossover child is an underage person who both lacks meaningful parental presence in his or her life and partakes in delinquent behavior. As for the narrower and more legally precise definition, a crossover kid is someone “dually involved” – both in the child welfare and youth justice systems (Bala et al. 3). Such dual involvement may be happening at the same time or in sequence.

Studies and statistics show that there is a strong association between receiving services from the child welfare system and legal misconduct in youth. For instance, in British Columbia, Canada, 36% of all underage citizens in care appeared in court as opposed to their peers. Out of those who did not belong to the crossover youth, only 5% caused legal problems that brought them to court (Bala et al. 4). What is even more tragic is the fact that once a young person enters the youth justice system, his or her likelihood to finish high school plummets dramatically (Bala et al. 4). All points taken into consideration, it is imperative to examine the issue further.

Crossover Youth: Underlying Causes

Even though each person has had a unique experience, and his or her life story may differ greatly from those of others, it is still possible to expose and examine certain patterns. Numerous studies, the majority of which were conducted in the United States, showed that there is a set of contributing factors. They explain how an individual found himself or herself in both the child welfare and youth justice system.

The first factor contributing to a child’s dual involvement later in life is parental mistreatment and parental abuse. There has been found evidence that if a child is exposed to or observes physical violence in his or her family environment when placed in the child welfare system, they are likely to misconduct (Bala et al. 4). Moreover, the likelihood of engagement in delinquent behavior is proportionate to the age at which a child enters the child welfare system since older children have experienced abuse for a longer time (Bala et al. 4).

Further, what may aggravate is the transfer from foster homes to group homes. Group homes are usually a place where children with behavioral problems are sent. Some children undergo constant moves and fail to adapt properly to each one. Due to past trauma and mental disorders, they may throw tantrums or have meltdowns which are often turned into matters for the police (Contento). This is how they may enter the youth justice system, completing the cycle.

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Difficulties Of Working with Crossover Youth and Solutions

A delinquent youth is a complex issue, and taking merely punitive measures is usually not a perfect solution and in some cases, may aggravate the situation. It is contended that there should be an extensive investigation into the background of underage offenders. This way, the legal and other systems do not only address the consequences of misconduct but also eliminate underlying factors in a young person’s life. Even though such reasoning seems fairly neat, some problems interfere with the implementation of such a strategy.

First, the youth justice system in North America lacks timely identification of an underage offender’s status. When arrested, many underage offenders fail to give correct information about their legal guardians and their placement in the child welfare system. Thus, they are left alone in dealing with the consequences of their deeds and lack a strong adult advocate. It is argued that workers in the child welfare system should be more involved in these children’s lives, for instance, they could attend bail hearings and maintain communication at all times.

It is now obvious that the second difficulty is the lack of collaboration between the two systems – child welfare and legal/ the police. Tackling the problem of crossover youth needs an intersectional approach and a mutual effort. Ideally, the child welfare institutions and the police could exchange information and work on the causes of juvenile delinquency together. However, it easy to imagine how time-consuming this collaboration would be. It is argued that increasing funding for the child welfare system could help to solve the issue to some extent. Extra funding could also make available such services as counseling and mentorship for more young individuals.

Lastly, both Canada and the United States suffer from the lack of programming. In both countries, there are no unified standards of care and solutions as to how to address delinquency in foster and group homes. Thus, each institution is free to set its standards and evaluate the work done based on self-imposed criteria. One may readily see how this leniency may lead to many cases of abuse and mistreatment being overlooked. Hence, it is vital to centralize the child welfare system and develop comprehensive standards applicable to all institutions.


Formative years of childhood and adolescence define future outcomes in a young person’s life to a large extent. Children and teenagers who belong to so-called crossover youth constitute an extremely vulnerable social group and need help and guidance. There have been several studies showing that parental mistreatment and placement in the child welfare system leads to a heightened risk of delinquent behavior in young adults. Frequent transfers and social workers’ inability to address children’s mental issues only aggravate the situation. Tackling the problem will take effective collaboration and continuous communication between different social institutions, more government funding, and new standards of care.

Works Cited

Bala, Nicholas et al. “Child Welfare Adolescents & the Youth Justice System: Failing to Respond Effectively to Crossover Youth.” Canadian Criminal Law Review, vol. 19, no. 129, 2014, pp. 1-19.

Contento, Sandra. “Toronto Group Homes Turning Outbursts from Kids into Matters for Police.The Star. 2015. Web.

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