As indicated earlier, the continuum of programs and services required to reduce girls' entry into the juvenile justice system must be responsive not only to gender and age but to developmental stage. Although the 1998 NCCD study describes a model continuum providing developmentally appropriate services for girls between the ages of 5 and 18, the focus here is on 8- to 11-year-old girlsthose at that crucial developmental stage for which there are few existing services. An optimum environment for at-risk girls of this age would be a community-based all-girls school setting that would anchor other services, including family counseling, substance abuse prevention, specialized educational services (such as learning disabilities assessment), and mentoring services.
Supporting the development of positive relationships between female offenders and their children is a critical strategy.
While the provision of an all-girls environment remains controversial, research conducted by Myrna and David Sadker (1994) of the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation (1997 and 1998) and the ongoing evaluation of the Florida PACE programs support this approach. The PACE program, which currently serves more than 2,500 12- to 18-year-old girls in 15 school-based centers statewide, recently committed to opening its first school-based program for 8- to 11-year-old girls. Once fully implemented and evaluated, this new program will yield invaluable information on the efficacy of educational and therapeutic services for preadolescent girls.