Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems: A Systematic Review of Definitions and Core Components
Objective: The U.S. Department of Justice has called for the creation of trauma-informed juvenile justice systems in order to combat the negative impact of trauma on youth offenders and frontline staff. Definitions of trauma-informed care have been proposed for various service systems, yet there is not currently a widely accepted definition for juvenile justice. The current systematic review examined published definitions of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system in an effort to identify the most commonly named core elements and specific interventions or policies. Method: A systematic literature search was conducted in 10 databases to identify publications that defined trauma-informed care or recommended specific practices or policies for the juvenile justice system. Results: We reviewed 950 unique records, of which 10 met criteria for inclusion. The 10 publications included 71 different recommended interventions or policies that reflected 10 core domains of trauma-informed practice. We found 8 specific practice or policy recommendations with relative consensus, including staff training on trauma and trauma-specific treatment, while most recommendations were included in 2 or less definitions. Conclusion: The extant literature offers relative consensus around the core domains of a trauma-informed juvenile justice system, but much less agreement on the specific practices and policies. A logical next step is a review of the empirical research to determine which practices or policies produce positive impacts on outcomes for youth, staff, and the broader agency environment, which will help refine the core definitional elements that comprise a unified theory of trauma-informed practice for juvenile justice.