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Awakening to the Strength of Latino Youth

NCJ Number
Date Published
25 pages

This report on the Sixth Annual Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Training Conference documents the socioeconomic status of Latino families and youth in the United States and assesses how laws, court systems, and correctional facilities have responded to Latino youth.


This report notes that Latino families and Latino youth in particular do not have access to the resources they need for positive development. Twenty-one percent of married Latinos with children lived in poverty in 1997, compared with 6 percent of white and 9 percent of Black families. Latino youth are also less likely to participate in early childhood education programs and less likely to have health insurance than their white and Black peers. Laws, court systems, and correctional facilities punish Latino children more severely than white youth; in 1993 Latino youth were three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. The Sixth Annual Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Training Conference identified preventive strategies that will keep Latino youth from coming into contact with the juvenile court system; strategies that will rehabilitate young Latino offenders; and strategies that will offer Latino children the opportunity to improve their lives. The conference gave attention to making schools relevant and useful, countering family violence and substance abuse, focusing on the distinctive problems of immigrant youth, and ensuring that the procedures and policies of the juvenile court system take into account the needs of Latino youth. The conference advised that Latino children must be recognized as a population that comprises distinctive ethnic groups with various cultures, needs, and strengths. Further, interaction with the education system for Latino youth and their parents/families must keep youth engaged in learning and address any frustration or maladjustment that leads to dropping out. The conference also recommended comprehensive health care that encompasses mental health services as a base for ensuring physical well-being and the building of self-esteem. Also, the juvenile court system must address the inequitable treatment of Latino youth. This report elaborates on these general concepts and recommendations with detailed policy and program recommendations. Recommendations are directed to the U.S. attorney general; the U.S. Congress; governors and juvenile justice State advisory groups; educators/education administrators; health care professionals and treatment and service providers; juvenile justice administrators, judges, and professionals; and State and local policymakers and State legislators.

Date Published: January 1, 2001