Juvenile Delinquency

.. s a few important questions. What is being done to prevent this? And what are our governments (local and federally) doing to help? Money makes the world go round and without government help the many social workers, psychologists, counselors and doctors trying to help this situation would not be able to do their part. The juvenile justice system is funded by multiple sources (McNeece & Roberts, 1997). Almost no federal money is expended by juvenile courts to support ongoing operations, but demonstration projects are funded with grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the U.S.

Department of Health and Human Services. This appears to be changing somewhat under the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, with $377 million available in Fiscal Year 1996-2000 for crime prevention programs sponsored by local governments (1997). This money will also be administered by OJJDP. Other provisions of this act may also make federal funds Juvenile Delinquency 10 available to courts for general administration ($150 million). Another $36 million has been authorized for “delinquent and at-risk youth” programs.

A few private foundations also fund innovative programs for short periods of time. Juvenile justice operations are financed primarily by a combination of state and local dollars, and the amount contributed of each varies by state and locality (1997). The biggest problem of funding programs for juveniles is the fact that local and state governments are now handling the huge responsibility of welfare programs. This puts a burden on funding new programs that relief from the federal level could improve. The report on the fiscal year 1998 published by the Children’s Defense Fund indicates “no [federal] increases in funding for the child welfare service areas of: runaway and homeless youth, child abuse state grants, child abuse discretionary activities, child welfare services and family violence” (Wilber 1998).

With an estimated growth of 23% in the total population of youths from ages 15 to 19 by 2005, it is imperative that we find effective and low cost solutions. Many such prevention and intervention programs already exist and several are worth mentioning (1998). Educational programs come in many forms. One of the most prevalent is Conflict Resolution Education. The programs contain components of process curriculum, peer mediation, peaceable classroom, and peaceable school with programs often combining elements from these approaches.

Such programs can exist in schools and in the community. The New Mexico Center for Dispute Resolution’s Youth Corrections Mediation Programs starts within the facility and continues in community mediation centers in more than 600 Juvenile Delinquency 11 communities. This provides skill development and assistance for both juveniles and their families (1998). Most communities also have some form of parenting classes available because parents have a tremendous influence over their teenagers. Michael D Resnick, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, in the September 1997 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, published the results of the most comprehensive survey ever done of American adolescents.

It found that the health and well being of adolescents “still rests in that strong feeling of being cared for by parents” (1998). In fact, the more loved they felt and the more comfortable they were in school, the less teenagers were likely to engage in problematic behaviors, including committing violence. Supporting parents through this very difficult stage of parenting and ensuring they have the skills necessary to help their children and support pro-social behaviors is money well spent. Advocacy programs are also effective and fiscally sound. One such program is the Court Appointed Special Advocates, which utilizes trained volunteers, each of whom follow one child under the conservatorship of the state regardless of where the child lives and makes recommendations to the judge (1998). CASA organizations exist throughout the United States but unfortunately, they often can only serve as few as one-third of the children who need the service and do not serve children who are not under conservatorship. This leaves the abused sixteen-year-old, for example, on his own and far too often the first intervention an abused adolescent will see is punishment (1998).

Juvenile Delinquency 12 The Juvenile Justice System has many treatment options to choose from. Besides the usual jails and correctional centers, there are specialized Youth Centers, Group Homes, and Foster Care Programs. These are just a few examples of what is available. Peter Greenwood and Susan Turner (1993) assessed the Paint Creek Youth Center in Ohio. The main goal of this center is to provide high quality tailored programming. There was a three-day orientation program and an aftercare program to assist in the transition back to society.

The youths received classes and formal counseling instead of locked up in a cell. They were part of a community. While at the center youths earned privileges as they progressed. Among the privileges were being allowed a paying job, family visits at the center, and weekends at home. The uniqueness of this program was the emphasis on tailored treatment. Instead of being lumped into groups, the youths are counseled individually. This allowed the counselors and youths to benefit from the program.

Greenwood and Turner concluded that the aftercare program had a modest effect on post-release arrests and behavior. More cognitive/behavioral effort was needed in the aftercare. They also determined that this alternative shows promise, and that more attention should be paid to the youths’ prosocial behavior when they return to the community. Haghighi and Lopez (1993) evaluated the success/failure of group home treatment programs for juveniles. The two factors used in the analysis were evaluations from program staff and the reappearance of the juvenile in the juvenile justice system after release.

Juvenile Delinquency 13 Haghighi and Lopez found that 62.5% of the juveniles were rated as successful. The rest either failed, were sent to another facility, or committed another delinquent act after release. Juveniles with prior treatment, such as probation, were more successful than those with no treatment or with time spent in a juvenile detention center. Galaway, et al. (1995) wrote an article that claimed family homes for emotionally or psychiatrically impaired youth might have hidden benefits for delinquents. Family care providers were said to be able to manage delinquents in a home setting and that their behavior will improve.

The study was composed of 220 U.S., 18 Canadian, and 28 U.K. programs. Less than half of these programs served delinquents. It was reported that 41% of delinquent youth completed the programs, 12% were administratively discharged, 14% showed no progress and the rest were discharged due to breakdown of the youth or foster family. The average length of stay was 7.5 months.

They determined that foster family care may be a viable alternative for delinquents and could be used more often. It is sometimes the case that youth are placed in the wrong setting (jail) because there is no alternative. In closing, we are all aware of after school programs and community based services such as Boys and Girls Clubs. They provide a safe haven for children to go where they can build self-esteem, pro-social values and productive futures. Communities and organizations do what they can, some with the help of Title V grants under “Delinquency Prevention Programs.” However, as long as a disproportionate amount funding goes to deal with problems after they have occurred, there will remain limited resources to prevent their occurring (Wilber 1998).

“Let us not in our concern about Juvenile Delinquency 14 juvenile violence forget that they are just that-children. These are our children and they need our attention and concern before they get into serious trouble, as well as after” (1998). Juvenile Delinquency 15 References Abruzzese, G. (1997). Juvenile Crime: Approaching the Millennium.

Delinquency now, 1 (5), pp.5. Retrieved March 5, 2000 from Ebsco Database (MUONLINE) on the World Wide Web: http://www.ebsco.com Baker, F. (1991). Saving Our Kids from Delinquency, Drugs, and Despair. New York: Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books. Downs, S., Moore, E., McFadden, J., & Costin, L.

(1991). Child Welfare and Family Services. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon. Galaway, B., et al. (1995). Specialized foster family care for delinquent youth. Federal Probation 59 (March): 19-27. Greenwood, P., & Turner, S.

(1993). Evaluation of the Paint Creek Youth Center: a residential program for serious delinquents. Criminology 31 (May): 19-27. Haghighi, B., & Lopez, A. (1993). Success/Failure of group home treatment Programs for juveniles.

Federal Probation 57 (Sept): 53-58. McNeece, C., & Roberts, A. (1997). Policy & Practice in the Justice System. Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers. Mish, F.

(Ed.). (1997). Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Massachusetts: Merriam- Webster Incorporated. Wilber, S. (1998) Can Prevention Programs Stem the Tide of Delinquency? 3 (3), pp.

3. Retrieved March 5, 2000 from EBSCO database Juvenile Delinquency 16 (MUONLINE) on the World Wide Web: http://www.ebsco.com Social Issues.

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