Adolescent Girls with Mental Health Disorders Involved with the Juvenile Justice System explores the demographics and needs of adolescent girls within the juvenile justice system. Girls are the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system. While most of the offenses committed by girls are not violent in nature, the arrest rate for violent crime has also increased considerably. Of equal concern is the fact that mental health conditions among girls in the justice system have been documented at rates exceeding 80 percent and that large numbers of these girls also have a co-occurring substance use need. Despite their growing numbers and significant needs, girls have tended not to be well served in the existing systems.

Justice and behavioral health agencies must work together to provide justice-involved girls with comprehensive screening and assessment, and treatment services that attend to their multiple needs in a gender-specific and trauma-informed manner. These services must be integrated and continuous. Therefore, agencies must also work together to assure that girls do not fall through the cracks between systems or points in justice processing. It is through early identification and appropriate treatment that the cycle of violence and crime can be interrupted.

The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.

This resource should be viewed as a reference document. It has not been updated since its publication. In addition, this document has not been made 508 compliant. If you would like a 508 compliant version of this document, please email

This resource was first shared in 2003.

(PDF, 214KB)