Position on Juvenile Justice and Dependency

State or National:


Position in Brief:

Support a juvenile justice/dependency system that works to prevent child abuse and neglect and juvenile delinquency, that serves foster children and their families and status offenders, and that rehabilitates juvenile offenders, by promoting the safety and well-being of children and helping to prepare them for productive participation in society. Support early identification of at-risk children and families followed by appropriate referrals to services that work with children, youth, families and schools. Support community efforts to provide safe supportive environments for children and their families and institutions that respect them and promote non-violent solutions to problems. Support the rights and best interests of the child in preference to those of any other individual.

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  1. Efforts to deal with dependency issues and provide juvenile justice should:
    1. reinforce a young person’s right to safety, support, respect, and justice;
    2. emphasize prevention and early intervention;
    3. intervene in the life of a child or family in the least intrusive, least punitive, yet effective way;
    4. identify needs at an early age and provide a wide range of interventions;
    5. be coordinated between state, county and local government agencies, including school systems, community-based organizations, and the communities they serve;
    6. be integrated, with exchange of confidential information where appropriate;
    7. be adequately and flexibly funded at the appropriate governmental level, to allow for case loads of appropriate size and provision of effective services for as long as needed;
    8. use programs and services that operate and are evaluated according to state standards and are administered by competent staff, appropriately trained to respect and deal sensitively with children, youth, and families of various backgrounds and characteristics;
    9. provide long-term continuity with individual judges and case workers for young people and their families;
    10. assure that children who are both foster children and delinquent receive appropriate services;
    11. assist young people leaving both systems with housing, counseling, education, and work.
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  2. State, county and city government, public school systems, communities, and the private sector share responsibility for efforts to deal with juvenile delinquency and child abuse and neglect.
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    1. The State should provide adequate funding, standards and evaluation based on those standards, coordination at the state level, and technical assistance that includes collection and dissemination of information, and should facilitate local coordination. To help increase funding for these efforts, state general fund spending priorities should be reordered, including the diversion of funding for the adult penal system to funding for these programs, and state allocation to counties and cities for these efforts should be increased. –Begin vertical–
    2. Juvenile Courts should be well managed, provide due process, protect the rights of all affected parties, work with community resources, and ensure that county child welfare services provide appropriate coordinated services to children and families.
    3. School systems should educate students and prepare them to lead productive lives; promote regular school attendance and provide effective truancy programs; and provide appropriate educational services to students with learning disabilities, children in foster care, expelled students, and those returning from secure facilities.
    4. Communities should provide safe environments for children and their families.
    5. The private sector should be encouraged to report cases of child abuse; address the impact of societal discrimination; support efforts to reduce poverty; provide jobs for young people; support effective community-based programs; and work with young people as volunteer tutors, mentors, and advocates.
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  3. The reduction of child abuse and neglect and the care for children removed from their home are the primary responsibilities of the child welfare system with assistance from organizations and individuals that include law enforcement, schools, providers of health and mental health services, community colleges, and members of the public.
    1. To reduce child abuse and neglect, the child welfare system, other appropriate organizations, and the public should:
      1. provide social and health services to children and families, such as parenting education, home visiting, prenatal and infant health care, substance abuse treatment, reduction of domestic violence, family counseling, job training and assistance in finding employment, and low cost housing;
      2. report suspected child abuse and neglect, investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, remove children from the home when appropriate, and provide in-home services for family preservation and reunification long enough to be effective.
    2. to care for children removed from home, the child welfare system, other appropriate organizations, and the public should:
      1. place children in a permanent home quickly, using adoption, kinship care, guardianship, permanent foster care, or other placements as appropriate;
      2. plan quickly for permanency placement, including concurrent planning for family reunification and permanent placement for children who are least likely to go home;
      3. support foster parents and kinship families;
      4. assess children quickly and provide appropriate services such as health care, mental health treatment, special education, and other appropriate school support services; 5) assist young people in or recently emancipated from foster care to prepare for independence as adults.]
  4. State, county and city government, public schools, communities, and the private sector share responsibility for prevention and early intervention of juvenile delinquency, services to status offenders, rehabilitation and accountability of the offender, and alternatives to incarceration. State and counties have responsibilities for incarceration of serious offenders.
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    1. The State should fund programs in or linked to schools to serve children at risk of becoming delinquent or truant, administer secure facilities for serious violent offenders, and provide services for offenders after incarceration. –Begin vertical–
    2. Counties should provide educational services to offenders in the community and should maintain juvenile halls, camps, ranches and schools that meet state standards, are safe, and provide education and other rehabilitation services to offenders.
    3. To prevent delinquency and serve juvenile offenders, local governments and communities should effectively enforce laws affecting juveniles, should provide balanced restorative justice, and should provide healthy safe opportunities for alternative activities to delinquent behavior, services for status offenders, alternatives to incarceration, jobs, job training and work opportunities for young people, and assistance for young people who have been released from secure facilities. Emphasis should be placed on diversion and rehabilitation consistent with public safety. Recognition should be given of the need to treat juveniles differently from adults because juvenile cognitive, developmental and behavioral maturity is in the formative stage.
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Position History:

As Adopted at LWVC Convention ’97 and ’99; Amended 2011; Readopted at the last convention.