Published: June, 2016| Shabnam Javdani, Edited by Stephanie Avalon

ROSES is a community based advocacy program that responds to youth violence and addresses the recent rise in arrests of girls.

All youth who commit violent offenses are at increased risk to end up in the criminal justice system as adults but girls who commit acts of violence are three times more likely than boys.i  Long term negative consequences for girls exhibiting antisocial behavior include higher mortality rates, more mental health problems, dysfunctional and violent relationships, and poorer educational and employment outcomes. The ROSES Program responds to the rise in arrests of girls in recent years that has not been met with any similar increase in girls programming.  While girls comprise a third of system-involved youth, there is a paucity of effective programming, with fewer than 10 programs identified as promising for girls nationally.ii

The ROSES Program (formerly called The Girls Advocacy Project) started in 2007 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Designed by Shabnam Javdani and Nicole E. Allen, the model is designed to be accountable to the needs of individual girls, in contrast to girls being accountable to program mandates. The program adapts an evidence-based community advocacy model that is described in detail in “An Ecological Model for Intervention for Juvenile Justice-Involved Girls: Development and Preliminary Prospective Evaluation.”iii

ROSES has served over 50 girls in the community who have been involved in the juvenile justice system, and is currently being implemented on a large-scale by Dr. Sukhmani Singh in New York City through a partnership between New York University Steinhardt’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the NYC Division of Youth and Family Justice.

About the Program

Using an advocacy framework, ROSES responds to the girls’ need for access to resources rather than focusing on pathology as an explanation for behavior. It is composed of a twelve-week, seminar-based training component where undergraduate advocates read and discuss materials related to juvenile justice and the provision of advocacy services. After successful completion of this rigorous training, advocates, who are junior and senior level students at the University, are assigned to work with a juvenile justice-involved girl in the community, on a one-on-one basis, for a period of 10-15 weeks.

Because the advocacy framework views the problem as residing in the context rather than the person, advocates focus on the girls’ strengths as opposed to their “deficits.” Advocacy for the girls involves four phases: assessment of needs and rights, increasing access to resources to meet those needs, monitoring whether the resources are helping to meet the unmet needs, and intensifying efforts to transfer “self-advocacy” skills to the girls themselves. The model is strength based, youth guided and community centered. Its primary goal is to make the community more responsive to the needs of juvenile justice-involved girls and to change the context of girls’ lives.  

Advocates are responsible to the girls they work with. They follow the lead of girls they work with, not the other way around. Advocates help girls brainstorm an exhaustive list of resources and creative solutions to meet their needs; including formal and informal. Girls decide on the goals they would like to work toward and the resources
they would like to utilize. The goals of advocacy are broad and girls report working on goals related to acquiring housing (30%), obtaining material goods (e.g., computers; 89%), health care (73%), education (e.g., tutoring: 70%), employment (41%), extracurricular and creative activities (37%), transportation needs (56%), social support (54%), and safety (e.g., obtaining orders of protection against violent partners; 100%), in addition to legal needs, including meeting terms of probation (81%). 

Viewing girls as the experts of their own lives, advocates involve girls in every phase of the advocacy process. Girls learn they have a right to services. As they work together, advocates actively transfer skills to girls. Advocates recognize that each girl has her own unique traditions and values. They work with and on behalf of girls to advocate for changes in practice and policy that will ensure culturally competent community responses.

About the Girls

ROSES has served 52 adolescent girls over 3 cohorts ranging in age from 12 to 18, the average age being 15.  The majority of these girls are girls of color: 73% African American, 21% Caucasian/White and 6% Multiracial. 8.9% of the girls served have at least one child. Girls are referred from various organizations: Juvenile Court (53%) Mental Health/Child Welfare (25%) and Schools (22%). The majority of the girls have been incarcerated and nearly half had been on probation.  60.8% of them self-reported assaults.

Feedback from the Girls

Over 90% of girls complete the program in its entirety (for a full 10-15 weeks). Girls ranked, on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 = Extremely Pleased, 7 = Terrible) how well the program helped them meet their overall and specific goals. Satisfaction was extremely high for both items. The average response for satisfaction with meeting goals overall was 1.82 (between “Extremely Pleased” and “Pleased”, with a range of 1 - 4.5. The average response for satisfaction with meeting specific goals was 1.77 (between “Extremely Pleased” and “Pleased”), with a range of 1 – 4. Girls ranked, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 =Strongly Agree, 5 = Strongly Disagree) and indicated that they strongly experienced program as emotionally supportive, youth guided, strengths based, and community centered.

Shay’s Story

Shay* is a 16-year-old girl who has been arrested several times for fighting. She lives with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend because her mom uses drugs and is in a violent relationship. Shay’s sister recently kicked her out of the house for using marijuana and Shay is facing expulsion from school for truancy and fighting, but says that she “just doesn’t care anymore.” Before the end of their first meeting, Shay’s advocate identified several of Shay’s strengths. Specifically, Shay’s fighting often occurred in response to threats made to her by a particular classmate, and her substance use was a coping strategy for dealing with her life at home. Additionally, Shay’s advocate noticed that she is incredibly bright and reads several books a week and loves to go to the library. Together, Shay and her advocate were able to advocate for Shay at school; she was given the choice to alter her schedule to avoid her threatening classmate and also able to leave class to see the school social worker whenever she feels threatened. She also joined a support group at a local counseling center, and her advocate helped her get a job at the local library. Shay said her advocate “really got me” and helped her learn how to advocate for herself.
* To protect the clients’ identities, Shay’s story is a composite based on the experience of several clients

picture of Shabnam JavdaniFor more information, please contact Shabnam Javdani at: and visit

 iSnyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national report. Office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

  iiZahn, M. A., Day, J. C., Mihalic, S. F., & Tichavsky, L. (2009). Determining what works for girls in the Juvenile justice system a summary of evaluation evidence. Crime & Delinquency, 55(2), 266-293.

  iiiJavdani, S., & Allen, N. E. (2016). An Ecological Model for Intervention for Juvenile Justice-Involved Girls Development and Preliminary Prospective Evaluation. Feminist Criminology, 11(2), 135-162.