Thursday, August 24, 2006

Newsflash: Juvenile Work Can Be Really Depressing

So, here is the paradox of juvenile law. On one hand, the juvenile court is designed to intervene in a person's life at a time when they are still being formed--to give them structure and guidance, to teach them about the serious consequences of illegal behavior, to set them on the right path toward a responsible and productive adulthood. It is not all about punishment. It really is supposed to be about rehabilitation. And when that type of thing works, it feels really good. But then you have the kids who just don't seem to have any chance of any kind of future. They come from a horrible family situation--a combination of poverty, drug/alcohol addiction, lack of education, neglect, and abuse. They live in an area flooded with meth. They have a variety of learning disabilities, mental illnesses, and/or behavioral disorders, and have a fairly low IQ. They keep repeating the same or similar illegal behavior, and never seem to be able to follow through on probation requirements, so they are repeatedly sent to juvenile detention. I look at one of these kids, and can't help but think, "He's only 16, and his life is basically over." I can never imagine this child growing up into an adult who is able to function in society. Do you have any idea how depressing that is? To think that a child has no chance to make it in the world? When a child dies--whether from illness, accident, or violence--it is often so horribly sad because you feel like that child never had a chance to do so many things in life. To experience things, to learn things, to contribute to society. I feel a similar sadness about some of these kids. Only, instead of having no life at all, they will have a life in and out of jail, rehab, substandard housing, and who knows what else. Certainly, I had adult clients that were just like these kids, just a few years down the road. But, somehow, with them, it was different. I could lament the fact that their childhood had been bad, and them still tell myself that, ultimately, they made a choice to break the law, and that they had to take responsibility for it. But with these kids, I feel like, somehow, we should be able to fix it. Kids represent potential. And feeling like these kids have none is downright sad.

2 Comments:

Blogger swd said...

I haven't done any juvenile work, but the problem that I run into is this: the prosecutors often say, "He doesn't have anything on his adult history, but he does have a juvenile record."

What the hell is that?

8/27/2006 7:16 AM  
Blogger dtarrell said...

I work as a pd in Omaha and, after waiting too many years doing misdemeanors, asked if I could transfer to juvenile court while awaiting an opening in felonies. After a year of putting up with the low burdens of proof (I do a lot of neglect cases) and the caseworkers who do an enormous amount of harm in the name of working in the best interests of the child, I'm really sick of it. Sure a lot of caseworkers are true believers, but many others are slackers who don't really try and know that the clients they serve are largely powerless to complain about their performance. I win once in awhile and see a lot to fight for but I just put in a request to go back to criminal court. First, though, I have to defend against a termination of parental rights action today, having never met the client. We truly can't find her and she's never shown for court. Apparently the mother, who was adjudicated after giving birth to a meth positive baby, confronted her father about his sexual abuse of her around the time she was 14 or so. After she confronted him, and threatened to inform the authorities, he committed suicide. Now, six years later, she's back in juvenile court as a parent. So I know what you mean by depressing. It's heartbreaking. (Finding a blog like this is nice though!)

9/05/2006 9:13 AM  

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