The 2010 Census showed that over 74 million children (or one-fourth of the total population) reside in the United States—with almost one-fourth being children under the age of 12 and one-fourth being youth ages 12-17 (Federal Interagency on Child and Family Statistics, 2011). Many of the decisions a young person makes can affect the rest of his or her life—and juvenile crime is just one of the bad decisions a young person can make. This essay covers the issue of juvenile crime, social work’s involvement, and my reflections on this issue.
The Issue of Juvenile Crime
According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, in 2009 youth ages 12-17 committed more than 275,000 serious violent crimes (2011). Many factors are known to contribute to youth crime, including a lack of parental involvement their child’s life; maltreatment; failure to adhere to social norms; and untreated health/mental issues.
The old “Boys will be boys” adage by a parent is not an acceptable excuse for juvenile misbehavior (Segal, Gerdes, and Steiner, 2010). Youth need positive role models in their lives. If a young person’s parents are not positive role models, the child may turn to a life of crime.
Sometimes, however, maltreatment by a parent is a contributing factor to juvenile crime. Those suffering from maltreatment tend to internalize their feelings, causing them to exhibit symptoms of “anxiety, depression, or suicidal behavior” (Maschi, Morgen, Hatcher, Rosata, and Violette, 2009). Internalization of feelings can lead to the externalization of unacceptable behaviors. Maltreated youth can become aggressive and rebellious (Maschi, et al, 2009).
Untreated health or mental issues can also contribute to juveniles’ involvement in crime. Oftentimes, a youth does not receive help until he or she is charged with a crime and appearing in juvenile court (Schwalbe, Hatcher, and Maschi, 2009). The court then rules that specialized treatment is needed to help the young person overcome these issues.
Judge Carmichael of California’s Hughes Justice Center for Minors emphasizes to juveniles who come to his courtroom for probation hearings the need to adhere to certain social norms, such as respect for authority and appropriate behavior (Harris, 2009). Appearing before Judge Carmichael is not always a pleasant experience. The judge has been known to use shaming techniques towards those appearing before him in an attempt to reprimand them, educate them in the ways of proper behavior, and hold them accountable for their behavior (Harris, 2009).
Social Work’s Involvement
Several types of social workers may work with at-risk youth. They include workers with child protective services (CPS), school social workers, and social workers who work with the juvenile justice system (Segal, et al, 2010). CPS workers may first encounter an at-risk young people because of alleged abuse or neglect by their parents. The social worker must then determine the best course of...