Criminal and child welfare caseloads in Massachusetts juvenile courts have fallen sharply over the past three years despite economic turmoil that has placed enormous strain on many families, reports the Boston Globe. The dramatic decline has confounded social workers, lawyers, and child and family advocates. Since 2007, delinquency complaints have plunged 35 percent. After a decade-long rise, cases involving alleged child abuse and neglect have dropped 21 percent over the past two years. Cases involving troubled youth have fallen 15 percent over the past three years.
Coming at a time of high unemployment, housing instability, and budget cuts to social services, the decreases have defied easy explanation. “Everyone's saying, 'Where are all the kids?' And I don't think anyone has the answer,'' said William Lyttle, president of KEY Program Inc., a Framingham social services group that helps hundreds of adolescents in the juvenile and child welfare system. “A lot of us expected just the opposite.''