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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.

Iowa Task Force for Young Women

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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 

Iowa Task Force for Young Women Members

Jennifer Tibbetts, ChairCedar Rapids Civil Rights CommissionCedar Rapids
Lori Rinehart, Vice ChairChildren & Families of IowaDes 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 EllenbeckerJuvenile Court Services - 2nd Judicial DistrictMarshalltown
Stephanie HernandezSiouxland Human Investment PartnersSioux City

Bethany Kohoutek


Des Moines

Kelsie KuhnertJuvenile Court Services - 5th Judicial DistrictDes Moines
Julie MartinJuvenile Court Services - 6th Judicial DistrictCedar Rapids
Danielle MastenJuvenile Court Services - 5th Judicial DistrictDes Moines
Nickole MillerDrake University Law SchoolDes Moines
Ariel PerryDes Moines
Olivia RayGirls Inc. of Sioux CitySioux City
Marissa Schuster

Thrive Counseling Center

Maria SmithDowling High SchoolDes Moines

Goals & Objectives

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

Priority Four:  Female Equity

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.

Objective A

JJAC/CJJP uses racial and gender equity lenses intentionally throughout all of its work.

  • Generate a tangible method for assuring implementation. 
  • Use council funds and leverage additional funds to support gender and racial equity training.
  • All JJAC members and sub-committee members are trained in the use of gender and racial equity lenses.
  • Collect data about any training received.

Objective B

Continue collaborative work with the DMC subcommittee.

  • Continue annual joint meeting.
  • Establish a joint project/activity/goal (e.g., school to court pipeline).

Objective C

Complete revamp of cornerstone publication, “Healing Justice”.

  • Continue workgroup meetings.
  • Solicit reviews by outside subject matter experts.

Objective D

Support the implementation of recommendations related to gender and race from the IDA validation report.

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.

Objective A

Select a small number of recommendations from the report to elevate.

  • Review report recommendations.

Objective B

Engage legislative and/or other leadership champions interested in establishing this level of care.

  • Revisit talking points.
  • Make use of DHR Legislative Day on the Hill.

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.

Objective A

Document what options/opportunities girls have compared to boys throughout the system to demonstrate any need for capacity building.

  • Use information from service inventory.
  • Assess and review service data side by side with males.

Objective B

Explore ways to leverage DHS FFPSA work to fill service gaps for girls.

  • Identify any evidence-based services for JJ girls to replicate.

Objective C

Explore ways to study low risk/high need girls under JJ supervision.

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.