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Young people and the family justice system

How can we transform the family justice system to promote better outcomes for young people and their families?

Our aim is to work with young people, families and professionals from across children’s services, family justice and youth justice to identify better ways to support and achieve justice for young people.

Students sit exams during COVID-19 pandemic.

Why we need research into young people and the family justice system

We know that older age young people are presenting in increasing numbers in the family court with a range of complex behavioural, extrafamilial and mental health issues.

Public law applications involving 15–17-year-olds doubled between 2011 and 2018, and the number of looked after children has seen a particular rise in the 10-15-year-old age group.

Because of their experiences before entering care, and during care, these young people in care are at greater risk of entering the youth justice system than their peers, and this risk increases for late entrants into care.

We do not know enough about this cohort of young people and what happens to them entering, during and after their interactions with the family justice system. We do not know enough about the impact of decisions made on the outcomes for these young people, their families and communities.

What we are doing

  • Nuffield FJO is bringing together research and the insights of professionals, academics and experts by experience, to identify ways to improve responsiveness and support for young people across the systems of family justice and the intersection with care and youth justice systems.
  • We are bringing a long-term focus to this work of system change, working to explore with others what is working well, what needs to change and what is needed for that change to happen.
  • Working with Research in Practice we have commissioned an analysis of four local authorities’  existing data and evidence about the reasons for adolescents coming into proceedings and their trajectories during and post proceedings, alongside further new analysis of Cafcass administrative data by the Family Justice Data Partnership and Nuffield FJO researchers. We are also undertaking a  court files analysis in a local DFJ area covering nine local authorities.
  • We are undertaking a series of participatory events with young people, families, and communities focused on the unheard voices whose lives are affected by the family justice system, drawing on the insights, expertise, and ideas of young people, lived experience adults and a range of professionals.
  • Through this combined research approach of data and first-hand testimony we will be identifying key questions and practice insights to inform ideas about what a transformed system would look like which better supports future outcomes for young people.

Explore our research on young people and the family justice system


Young people | 2021 – 2021

‘Not about us, without us’: Older children and young people’s experiences of support and services

In recent years there has been growing recognition of the increasing number of older children and young people coming before the family courts, and the complexity and diversity of their experiences. This has raised concerns about the capability of support services in and around the child welfare system to…




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Externally reviewed

Newborn babies | Young people | 2021

Health vulnerabilities of parents in care proceedings in Wales

This summary highlights the main findings of a report that provides an overview of health-based vulnerabilities experienced by mothers and fathers of children aged 0–17 across a two-year period prior to their involvement in section 31 care proceedings in Wales. The report was written by the Family Justice Data…

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National administrative data
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What do we know about children in the family justice system?

Our infographic pulls together what we know, and what we don’t know, about children’s journeys through the family justice system from national data.