Reaching youths in crisis
David Hoskins, PsyD, MAS, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland

An estimated 60,000 children are incarcerated in the US every day, and young people of color are vastly over-represented among youths in contact with the justice system.

There are many documented reasons for this, including discrimination, poverty, and lack of access to services, particularly mental health care. The consequences are significant: Children of color who come into contact with the justice system are more heavily impacted by trauma and overlapping mental health challenges than their white peers.

Yet few health care initiatives focus on supporting incarcerated young people of color with the culturally appropriate and evidence-based mental health care they desperately need. Psychologist David Hoskins, PsyD, MAS, is looking to change that.

Dr. Hoskins came into health care with a passion for serving marginalized youth. His practice at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals – a nationally renowned center for pediatric mental health care – focuses on providing specialized mental health services for vulnerable children, including those who have had contact with the child welfare and justice systems.

“We see so many marginalized kids, whether due to race, ethnicity, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” Dr. Hoskins says. “And these kids are more often in contact with the child welfare and juvenile justice system, which can have a huge negative impact on their well-being. The primary care setting can be a wonderful way to connect with these youths and their families.”

Dr. Hoskins’ practice combines culturally sensitive mental health care with research that explores the unique needs of Latinx youth who have been incarcerated. His research has revealed the outsized impact that trauma plays in the lives of these children. For example, one study found that three-quarters of first-time offending Latinx youth had a history of trauma.

These findings directly inform how Dr. Hoskins and his team assess and treat their patients. His research is also generating important recommendations for how the justice system can do a better job of caring for vulnerable children.

“My ability to pose questions like this, and improve how our programs care for these kids, is so dependent on finding people who are interested in financially supporting this work,” Dr. Hoskins says. “It takes resources and people to create real impact.”

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