Florida youths are spending less time in jail and more time getting the help they need.
The rate of confinement dropped 32 percent from 1997 to 2010, according to a study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Still, nearly 5,000 children were locked up in Florida in 2010, second-highest in the nation.
Susan Weitzel, director of Florida Kids Count, said it's important to look at the larger picture for a troubled child.
"The crime is not what the focus should be on," she said. "The focus is really that the crime is simply an identification of underlying issues."
Most incarcerated youth are there for non-violent offenses such as parole violations or possession of alcohol. There are 21 juvenile detention centers in Florida.
The National Prisoner Statistics Program reports, on an average day in 2010, more than 7,000 juveniles were serving time in adult prisons putting them at risk for physical harm.
Laura Speer, associate director of policy and research at the Casey Foundation, said more work remains to be done.
"Compared with other countries that are similar to the United States," she said, "we still incarcerate our young people many times higher than other countries do. So there's a long way to go."
The number of Florida youths in confinement went down across all racial groups, but the report also cites racial and ethnic disparities. Nationwide, it noted, African-Americans are nearly five times more likely to be jailed as whites.
The study recommended rehabilitation programs and changing state policies on incarcerating youths.
Florida receives recognition in the report for the education provided to juveniles while in custody.
The report, "Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States," is online at aecf.org.