"We're not recognizing the subgroup. I think that we're forgetting about them," said
Danielle Parrish, assistant professor in the UH Graduate College of Social Work. She is studying girls in the juvenile detention system, specifically noting how existing interventions for them are rarely different than for boys.
"The danger of treating them all the same is that we may not be helping them," she said. "We may not be providing those important ingredients that help prevent the risk behaviors and the dynamics that are bringing them into the system."
Funded by the National Institutes for Health, Parrish's pilot study examines an intervention for girls that targets multiple risk factors at once.
"The potential for this is that it would reduce costs in terms of delivering services and it would be more efficient," she said. "We don't have a lot of time with these girls when they're in the system. We have a limited window."
Collaborating with The University of Texas at Austin and the UT Medical School at Houston, the intervention includes sessions with a counselor and pediatrician to discuss HIV risks, unplanned pregnancy and smoking cessation.
"It is more holistic and more realistic to what we see in the real world. I've been a practitioner out there in the real world and I know it's hard to focus on one thing with a person when they're dealing with so many things."
Parrish says the proportion of girls in the juvenile justice system has increased, with many of them dealing with human trafficking, abuse and homelessness. She's hopeful the study lays the groundwork to change that at a broader level.
"If this intervention is feasible and shows promise, I hope it will help address and ameliorate real-world issues and help a lot of girls down the line."
Danielle Parrish is part of what's happening at the University of Houston.