Navigating risk: young women's pathways through the care, education and criminal justice systems

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The criminalization of young women in care remains an important practice and policy issue in England despite 2018 national guidance and the subsequent development of local authority protocols to reduce the criminalization of care-experienced young people. This paper contributes to the emerging research on young women whose behaviour challenges professionals, through secondary analysis of case file data and narrative interviews with 24 care-experienced young women from a national project on care and offending. Analysis focused on young women's pathways through the care, justice and education systems and identified five domains within young women's lives where available risk or resilience factors were significant in directing young women towards prosocial opportunities, to new types of victimization or to criminalization and offending. These domains consisted of placements and caregiver relationships; partner relationships; pregnancy and motherhood; participation in education; and the transition to adulthood through leaving care. The paper concludes with implications for practice for professionals working with young women, in particular emphasizing that how the care, justice and education systems respond to young women can contribute to negative pathways or transform them.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13139
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Early online date10 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jan 2024


  • criminal justice
  • education
  • gender
  • out-of-home care
  • resilience
  • risk

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