Young girls and women make up an increasing share of the youth in the juvenile justice system, despite a national decline in the overall rate of juvenile incarceration in this country. In 2011, girls made up nearly 30 percent of all juvenile arrests, up from 20 percent in 1980. However, girls account for a very small share of the juvenile arrests for violent crimes and are far more likely than boys to be arrested for non-serious offenses like truancy, running away, and underage drinking. Their low-risk entry into the justice system is often linked to a combination of high-need issues, including trauma, physical and/or sexual violence, neglect, mental and physical problems, pregnancy, substance abuse, family instability, and academic failure. The current juvenile justice system is not well-positioned to meet the unique needs of girls, as most services are rooted in research and practices that are based on experiences and needs of boys.
PACE Center for Girls, Inc., is a school-based, gender-responsive program for at-risk girls. Founded in 1985, PACE has served more than 20,000 girls between the ages of 11 and 18 years in more than 15 nonresidential locations across the state of Florida. The program aims to balance academics and social services in a holistic, strength-based culture, with the intention of promoting protective factors and mitigating risk factors for delinquency among girls. To that end, the program offers year-round academic classes, individual and group counseling, case management, gender-specific life management training, career planning and exploration services, and transition services for its participants. The ultimate goal of PACE is to improve health, well-being, self-efficacy and academic outcomes among girls, preparing them to lead productive lives as engaged members of their communities.
This program is funded by the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership designed to identify and expand effective solutions to social challenges. The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, a SIF grantee, is leading a SIF project in collaboration with MDRC and The Bridgespan Group to identify proven programs that can help low-income young people become productive adults.
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund is also providing financial support for the PACE evaluation.