How do states address the behavior of youth that is illegal by virtue of their status as a minor? A wide range of non-criminal behaviors by youth are grouped as status offenses. Status offenses include truancy, running away home, being beyond their parents' or guardians' ability to safely manage them, curfew violation, and underage consumption of alcohol or tobacco. Many agencies other than juvenile courts are involved in responding to status offenses, and states differ on the labels they create for these categories of youth and the behaviors included in each category.  Charting these various approaches across states along with data concerning the prevalence of status offenders can help advance the ongoing national discussion on the most appropriate ways to respond to youth whose behavior may violate societal boundaries or rules, rather than the criminal law.


State juvenile justice statutes apply different legal labels to youth who commit status offenses. Researchers at times have associated the labels to legislative intent indicating a child welfare orientation on one side of the spectrum and a public safety approach on the other. In the middle are labels that imply a need for services and supervision. Some states require multiple labels because they split status offenses into more than one category. More information on status offense reform is available at the VERA Institute's Status Offense Reform Center and in a study of the competing underlying philosophies in state status offender legislation, Responding to Troubled Youth (1997).

Spectrum of labels

States with multiple labels
Victim Child welfare perspective
Offender Public safety perspective
In need of aid, assistance, or care In need of services In need of supervision Unruly Status offender

No specific label:      Other:     

  • In need of aid, assistance, or care includes labels such as Child in Need of Aid, Child in Need of Care, Child Requiring Assistance, and Families in Need of Assistance.
  • In need of services includes labels such as Children in Need of Protection or Services, Child in Need of Services (CHINS), Family in Need of Services (FINS), Family in Need of Court-Ordered Services, Family With Service Needs (FWSN), and Juvenile Alleged to Be in Need of Protection or Services.
  • In need of supervision includes labels such as Child in Need of Supervision (CHINS) and Person in Need of Supervision (PINS).
  • Unruly includes labels such as incorrigible, undisciplined juvenile, unruly, and wayward.
  • Status offender includes labels such as juvenile petty offender, delinquent youth, and status offender.
  • Some states have multiple labels for status offenders depending on the type of non-criminal offense or situational factors, such as Alabama (Status Offender and Child in Need of Supervision), Illinois (Minor Requiring Authoritative Intervention and Truant Minor in Need of Supervision), Iowa (Chronic Runaways and Families in Need of Assistance), Minnesota (Juvenile Petty Offender and Children in Need of Protection or Services), Washington (At-Risk Youth, Truant, and Child in Need of Services), and Virginia (Child in Need of Services, Child in Need of Supervision, and Status Offender).

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Age boundaries

States differ in the age boundaries established for delinquency and status offense jurisdiction. These differences impact how juvenile courts and other social services are organized and resourced. Gaps between the status offense and delinquency age boundary in 9 states create unusual structural contradictions where status offense jurisdiction extends beyond delinquency jurisdiction. 

National data

The nation's farthest reaching federal legislation is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Enacted in 1974, the Act states that status offenders shall not be placed in secure detention facilities or secure correctional facilities. The Act was amended in 1984 with a controversial exception known as the valid court order exception (VCO). The VCO relaxes JJDPA secure detention restrictions for youth charged with non-criminal behavior who are in violation of a valid court order.  More information is available on the OJJDP Core Requirements website  and on the federal policy page of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice's website. 

Case flow of petitioned status offense cases by detention

  • Note: Detained case counts for individual race groups can be very small.

Reported data

Thirty-four states publicly report information about status offense and delinquency cases. Methods of reporting vary between states such as combining traffic citations with delinquent offenses whereas others include only misdemeanors and felonies in their delinquency figures. Additionally, these states report data about multiple stages of the juvenile justice system, such as referrals, petitions, and adjudications. Case rates for status offense cases are often lower than for delinquency cases in juvenile courts. The units of count for court statistics presented below vary by state, which often makes direct comparisons impractical and inaccurate. Where possible, a count based on the number of cases disposed is displayed. Additionally, 5 states that do not publicly report status offense cases report cases to NCJJ through the Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts online tool (Alabama, Florida, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Virginia). View each state's profile by clicking on state names for the case totals, detailed footnotes and links to source information.  More information concerning delinquency and status offense case counts is also available in the Juvenile Court Statistics report series.

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Per 1,000 youth from age 10 to the upper age boundary for each state

    • Fourteen states do not report data: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New York, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

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    Progressive data 2016

    As illustrated in the above topic, some basic court referral information is available in several states. However, only a few states report nuances annually, such as the underlying behavior that generated a referral such as running away or truancy. Even fewer states use administrative data to report the diversion of status offense referrals and juvenile court hearing outcomes.  

    Click a state to see a summary of its policies and more information.

      About this project

      Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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