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Toxic Stress and National Disgrace

The separation and detention of migrant youth and their families has been widely condemned by organizations and experts including the United Nations, the ACLUexperts in child welfare, juvenile justice and child development, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, the Law Enforcement Immigration Task ForcePresident Barack Obamaformer first ladiescurrent members of Congress, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, and us.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris talked to Vox about how toxic stress impacts kids’ brains, and how separating kids from their families is “almost a recipe for toxic stress:”

Journalist’s Resource has compiled a list of peer-reviewed studies that investigate the potential impacts of child separation.

“Children are being served with notices to appear in court. They are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them … Given the trauma the children faced in their home country that spurred their families to flee and the pain of being separated from a parent, the expectation that children can mount a legal defense is ‘unconscionable.’” Watch a discussion starting at 1:01:50 here.

Vera Institute of Justice partnered with New America to create the Immigrant Connection Project, a resource for parents separated from their children through the administration’s zero tolerance policy to locate and connect with the legal service providers working with their children.

Where Are The Girls?

According to HHS, girls represent nearly 30% of the unaccompanied minors who have entered the United States. “Migrant rights groups say they are concerned about the risks that girls and young women face in detention, noting issues such as pregnancy, sexual assault, menstruation and psychological trauma from assault and rape.”

At the end of June, NBC was allowed inside a Florida facility where girls are located – but their report back offered few answers to the concerns raised by advocates like those above. One reflection the correspondent shares: “You see a certain awareness on their face that they’re not free.”

Another reason the Trump administration may have initially only released images of boys? “It fits the [administration’s] narrative of who’s coming over, and what can they become,” according to Abel Enrique Núñez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center. Watch at 1:05:35 at a policy briefing hosted by YWCA USA and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson, representing Florida, wrote an op-edabout her experience visiting facilities housing boys and girls who have been detained.


The Annie E. Casey Foundation released their 2018 Kids Count Data Book on state trends in child wellbeing, which warns about a likely undercount of children under age 5 in the 2020 census:

“4.5 million young children live in neighborhoods where there’s a high risk of missing kids in the count. An undercount of young children in the upcoming decennial census would short-change child well-being over the next decade by putting at risk hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding for programs that are critical to family stability and opportunity.” This is an accelerating problem: “The undercount of young children has worsened with every census since 1980.”

Sexual Health and Reproductive Justice

The CDC released their 2007-2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data summary and trends report. Unfortunately, the report does not disaggregate by gender. Among the findings: A “significantly higher percentages of lesbian, gay, or bisexual students (63.0%) and students not sure of their sexual identity (46.4%) experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than heterosexual students (27.5%).”

In a narrow ruling earlier this month, the Supreme Court vacated an appeals court ruling that allowed Jane Doe, a young immigrant woman, to get an abortion.

The Supreme Court also reversed a lower court decision upholding the California Reproductive FACT ACT, which required anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to “disclose to their clients in writing that the center is not a licensed medical facility and has no licensed medical provider who supervises the provision of services.”

Healthy Teen Network launched an app, Crush, that provides on-demand access to comprehensive, medically accurate sexual health information. The tool has been proven effective at increasing young women’s sense of control to make decisions regarding their sexual behavior, including increasing user likelihood of using health clinics for sexual and reproductive health services and increasing user feeling of control around birth control use.

Safety at School

Black girls are suspended and expelled at higher rates and for longer periods of time than other girls in Baltimore schools, according to a new study by Cara McClellan of the NAACP LDF Thurgood Marshall Institute. The study finds that “when black girls observe things in school they perceive as problematic or unfair … they are labeled as aggressive rather than encouraged to be activists.”

The South Carolina Governor signed an amendment repealing the crime of “disturbing schools” for students. The SC law gained national attention after the 2015 assault of a student by a Student Resource Officer at Spring Valley High School.

Advocates are warning that face recognition technology purchased by school districts “is going to exacerbate the racial disparities you already see, whether it’s about monitoring or enforcement.”

In Florida, all-girls educational reentry program EMERGE offers “a healing learning environment with tons of support.” The first five participants received their high school diplomas in June.

Monique Morris talks about black girls, school discipline, implicit bias, and restorative justice: “We’ve come to reduce ‘restorative practice’ to the single model of sitting in circle, when really, there are so many ways that we can repair, restore, and transform relationships when there has been a conflict. For Black girls and other girls of color, it is also important to install spaces for youth to address historical trauma and racial bias such that they can fully understand how their education can become a tool to counter oppressions. When girls understand and engage education as a liberative tool, she can restore her relationship with herself, which is the most important of all.”

The Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Network for Girls of Color has officially launched.

“They specifically told me not to mention how they handled my sexual assault case”: A high school valedictorian had her mic cut during her graduation ceremony. After the experience she wrote: “For weeks, they have threatened me against ‘speaking against them’ in my speech. Sometimes we know what’s right and have to do it despite the threats.”

Candace King: “Efforts to address campus sexual assault have been inadequate on the whole. This is especially true for black undergraduate women.”

“I really feel like I was [playing the role of] public-safety [officer], and the dean of students and administration … I did all the roles. I literally ran a queer trauma unit out of my own dorm.” Dr. Sherri Williams writes about transphobia and homophobia on HBCU campuses.

Supporting Communities, Decreasing Criminalization

When you close youth prisons, what happens to the buildings? A new report by the Urban Institute looks at how six communities across the country have transformed closed youth facilities in service of community needs, including a teen community center and a community hub for social services.

Andrea Ritchie in Teen Vogue: “Three years ago, then 15-year old Dajerria Becton was violently arrested by a police officer at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. As more and more incidents of violence by police officers against Black women and girls in public spaces make national headlines, Dajerria’s story appears less and less like what it never was: an isolated incident.”

In eastern Kansas, one in five possible child trafficking victims assessed by rapid response teams from 2014-2018 were housed in juvenile detention: “It is extremely difficult to heal from your trafficking experience when you are criminalized and detained.”

Impact Justice has a new report on how Alameda County has reduced out-of-home placements. Mirroring national trends, from 2014 to 2016 the reduction of out-of-home placements for boys in the county (80%) was greater than girls (66%) leaving a slightly higher percentage of girls with out-of-home placements. The study recommends the “multi-disciplinary team reviewing out-of-home placements should consider documenting trends for girls.”

guide to the changes in Kansas’ Juvenile Code that were implemented in 2016 — including not placing a young person in detention due to “a lack of supervision alternatives or service options” or “a violation of a valid court order.”

“In Los Angeles, St. Anne’s Maternity Home—which houses girls in LA’s foster care system who are pregnant or who have children under three—reportedly made a staggering 904 calls to the cops in 2016 about their charges, kids who are, by definition, already dealing with pasts of abuse and/or neglect.” California lawmakers’ 2018-2019 budget includes $4 million toward training for law enforcement and group home staff, and for nonprofit community groups that provide trauma-informed services to the state’s foster youth.

The Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act – which would ensure that foster youth are able to keep their health care coverage until they turn 26, regardless of where they live – passed the House of Representatives.


Applications available for the DC-based week-long certificate program on how to best serve LGBQ/GNCT youth in the justice system, led by Ceres Policy Research, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University.


  • Watch: Webinar on pregnant and parenting youth experiences of homelessness
  • Madison City Council members seek to ban conversion therapy
  • Watch: Yessica Gonzalez of the Immigrant Youth Coalition talks about working to address the issues facing queer and trans undocumented immigrants
  • Marie Claire and Girl Up surveyed over 3,500 girls across seven countries and three languages“
  • “Connecticut will become the first state in the nation where transgender inmates will, as a matter of policy, be housed according to their gender identity.”
  • True Colors Fund released the State Index on Youth Homelessness
  • Movement Mujeres seeks to shift the balance of power in Texas in favor of young women of color by building the leadership and power of a new generation of bold and imaginative women
  • New study: “In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math”
  • Ballet classes for incarcerated teen girls in California
  • “Forgotten by history, young Appalachians formed a vital presence in the original Poor People’s Campaign—and they took the lessons they learned home.”
  • Yasemin Besen-Cassino’s new book “The Cost of Being a Girl: Working Teens and the Origins of the Gender Wage Gap” looks at the teen gender pay gap: “Girls land in customer service more than boys and are expected to provide more ‘care work’ (and should want to provide it), whether dealing with tough customers or providing an emotional component to babysitting.”
  • Kansas is opening a new center for 20 girls in the foster care system, following a shortage of beds earlier this year that caused the state to house girls in the agency office.



“It’s not freedom when I have a young woman come to me who’s not in jail anymore but her kids were taken away on Thursday.”

Source: Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director of Young Women’s Freedom Center, in Mississippi Today

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