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Females and Juvenile Justice

In the United States, the juvenile justice system was based on an adult male model and developed with boys in mind.  Traditionally, the needs of the relatively small population of adolescent girls in the juvenile justice system have gone unmet as the system prioritized providing adequate supervision and appropriate services for adolescent boys.  As a result, girls have largely been expected to fit into an existing structure that was never designed and is not equipped to meet their specific needs.  As more females became involved with the juvenile justice system over the years, scholars, service providers, policy-makers, youth advocates and juvenile justice system personnel began to recognize this shortcoming, however, substantial progress to address the issue is, as yet, unrealized.

In the early 1990's, this awareness led to heightened advocacy by state and national organizations to address the inequities for girls in the juvenile justice system.  New programs were designed that considered the specific emotional, physical and psychological needs of girls involved with the juvenile justice system, based on research into the types of offenses committed, the socioeconomic background and experiences of girls involved with the juvenile justice system and female adolescent development.  Emphasis was placed on designing programs free from gender bias that provided a physically and emotionally safe space for girls. In short, the concept of a female-responsive approach to juvenile justice was born.

It is important to note that "female-responsive" in juvenile justice does not only mean programs, services, placements or caseloads that include girls.  Rather, it indicates a comprehensive approach that recognizes, understands and intentionally plans to address the realities of living as a female in our society. It also takes into account how these realities influence the choices and behaviors of girls involved with the juvenile justice system.

Click here for a list of Female-responsive Resources and Links.

Iowa Task Force for Young Women

One purpose, one passion - transforming systems to empower every girl

The Iowa Task Force for Young Women (ITFYW) was formed in 1995, as a subcommittee of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council (JJAC).  The JJAC serves as Iowa’s State Advisory Group for administration of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  The ITFYW exists to address the spectrum of issues related to females and juvenile justice and to offer their expert advice to the JJAC and others.  The goal of the ITFYW has been, and continues to be, to facilitate a comprehensive fundamental change in the juvenile justice system that will enhance the understanding and utilization of the female-responsive approach in all settings that involve the adolescent female population of Iowa’s juvenile justice system.


The ITFYW exists to advise, make recommendations and take action to address juvenile justice issues as they pertain to gender.  The ITFYW is made up of passionate subject matter experts who are invested in comprehensive system improvement that reflects valuing and empowering every girl, no matter her circumstances.

“The Iowa Task Force for Young Women has been front and center on influencing change in the juvenile system and understanding best practices for working with girls – even before the term ‘gender responsive’ was popular.” 

~Giovanna Taormina, Executive Director, One Circle Foundation, California

“When you recall that today’s girls are tomorrow’s women, the Iowa Task Force for Young Women is guaranteeing that the future will be bright for tomorrow’s leaders, female as well as male, while also providing the nation with a model approach to girls’ services.”  ~Dr. Meda Chesney-Lind, University of Hawaii 

Goals & Objectives

A complete list of goals & objectives for the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council can be found here.

Goal 1:  Make the experiences and needs of girls who are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system (i.e., black, native, and LGBTQ+ youth) central to all ongoing work.

Goal 2Establishment of a specialized setting(s) for serious, violent, and chronic offenders as well as systemic measures to reduce the need for such a setting as outlined in the recommendations of the “Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Female Offenders” report.

Goal 3Fill the gaps and improve the quality in the continuum of care for girls in both residential and community-based service settings with well-defined options that allow for differential responses based on culture, risk level, development and needs.

Iowa Task Force for Young Women Members

Jennifer Tibbetts, Chair
Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission    Cedar Rapids

Lori Rinehart, Vice Chair
Children & Families of Iowa    Des Moines

Ashley Artzer    
Juvenile Court Services - 5th Judicial District
Des Moines

Tiffany Berkenes
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach

Andrea Dencklau
Youth Policy Institute of Iowa
Des Moines

Andrea Dickerson
Youth & Shelter Services

Jackie Ellenbecker
Juvenile Court Services - 2nd Judicial District    Marshalltown

Stephanie Hernandez
Siouxland Human Investment Partners    Sioux City

Bethany Kohoutek
Des Moines

Kelsie Kuhnert
Juvenile Court Services - 5th Judicial District    Des Moines

Julie Martin
Juvenile Court Services - 6th Judicial District    Cedar Rapids

Danielle Masten
Juvenile Court Services - 5th Judicial District    Des Moines

Nickole Miller
Drake University Law School
Des Moines

Ariel Perry
Des Moines

Olivia Ray
Girls Inc. of Sioux City
Sioux City

Marissa Schuster    
Thrive Counseling Center

Maria Smith
Dowling High School
Des Moines

Recent ITFYW Meetings

The Iowa Task Force for Young Women usually meets quarterly during the months of February, May, August, and November.  Please check the calendar for future times and locations.