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Study Finds Grief and Loss at the Epicenter of Girls’ Pathway into the Justice System

Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center | October 21, 2015
Contact: Tayloe McDonald

40 East Adams, Ste. 130

Jacksonville, FL 32202

Phone: 904-962-1639

Fax: 904-598-0902








Study Finds Grief and Loss at the Epicenter of Girls’ Pathway into the Justice System


Jacksonville, FL – October 21, 2015 According to new research by the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, 53% of girls incarcerated on the First Coast experienced the death of a close friend or family member within the past year.  The study released today was conducted to better understand the common pathways of girls entering the juvenile justice system and to understand girls’ experiences and their recommendations for how communities can better respond to the needs of girls before they become involved in the system.


From March-November of 2014, Policy Center researchers interviewed 32 girls, aged14 – 18, who had been arrested on Florida’s First Coast and sent away to residential commitment programs across the State.  Breaking New Ground on the First Coast: Examining Girls’ Pathways into the Juvenile Justice System reveals striking similarities in the narratives of incarcerated girls that include grief, out of home placement, running away, school suspension and substance use. Girls reported their experiences with the justice system as well as what relationships buffered their own life traumas. Their stories have identified critical gaps in trauma-informed community-based services and call for systemic changes in education, child protection and law enforcement.

“If we don’t understand what’s driving a girls’ behavior, we’ll never address the root cause of her acting out.  The typical trajectory into the justice system for a girl begins with the loss of her primary caregiver. The next shared experience we see is out of home placement. For many reasons, some girls run away from these out of home placements and in doing so break the law. It’s at this very vulnerable time that girls frequently get arrested and their futures get derailed forever. This body of research adds another layer to our understanding of how trauma affects girls. What we now know is that at the center of this experience is unaddressed grief and loss,” said Dr. Lawanda Ravoira, President and CEO of the Policy Center.   Based on this research, the Policy Center is advocating for state appropriations to create a service network for legislative policies, training and girl-centered services to improve how the system responds to girls.

The Policy Center will delve into girl-centered solutions during its second annual See the Girl Summit October 22 and 23 at the Jessie Ball DuPont Center, 40 East Adams Street, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The two-day conference will allow participants to join national thought leaders, researchers and advocates in forward-thinking workshops about major issues impacting girls. The featured workshop tracks include Wellness through the Healing Arts, Research to Activism and Girl-Centered Practice. (Continuing education units (CEUs) will be available for professionals.)

Registration is still open for the summit. Regular registration is $199. The student rate is $99. For more information, please log onto



The executive summary is attached. The full report is available upon request to Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center engages communities, organizations and individuals through quality research, community organizing, advocacy, training and model programming to advance the rights of girls and young women, especially those in the justice and child protection systems.  The Policy Center was established with financial support from Delores Barr Weaver, a lifelong advocate for girls and young women. To learn more:




40 East Adams, Suite 130
Jacksonville, FL 32202