Every now and then this blog takes a close-up of the work an individual agency is doing. This week we would like to profile Starting Over, Inc. a small Los Angeles agency dedicated to helping individuals who have fallen by the wayside and are trying to reenter the mainstream of normal life. Starting Over Inc. is dedicated to helping Southern California's most vulnerable by addressing homelessness, recidivism, and reentry. Although providing transitional housing is an important part of their service, over time the program has evolved a seven-part service model that seeks to address the complex of conditions that hinder a successful reentry into the mainstream.
Few people outside the social work profession are aware that juvenile justice is administered on a state-by-state basis. While there is no national system that establishes norms beyond the adult criminal justice system, (processes include arrest, detainment, petitions, hearings, adjudications, dispositions, placement, probation, and reentry) the juvenile justice system in most states operates according to the premise that youth are fundamentally different from adults, both in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation. Whereas sentencing for a serious crime following a guilty verdict in the criminal justice system often results in jail or prison time, the juvenile justice system seeks to avoid incarceration whenever possible.
Topics: Juvenile Justice
We are quite surprised but pleased by our readers' enthusiastic response to our recent blog on forensic social work. Social workers and workers from other professions were so intrigued by the work that forensic social workers do within the criminal justice system that they asked if we would flesh out a little more the career details of the forensic social work specialty. If you're considering a career in forensic social work, here's an overview you may find helpful.
There are over 111,565 forensic social workers currently employed in the United States, but few people have any idea what they do. Forensic social workers are involved in both criminal and civil cases that can include termination of parental rights, juvenile and adult justice services, corrections, and mandated treatment. They fight against oppression that is exhibited through exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, violence, criminalization, and cultural dominance or imperialism. Forensic social workers assist individuals of all ages, handling child custody, juvenile arrest, and child maltreatment, elder abuse, divorce, civil disputes and criminal offending and imprisonment. As counselors they may provide psychosocial counseling, group counseling or mediation services. As a case manager or liaison, they link the legal world with the field of social work. They may be employed across a wide variety of settings such as court systems, mental health agencies, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, hospitals, child and family agencies, prisons, and faith-based institutions.
As stated in Article 40 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
"Every child in conflict with the law has the right to be treated in a manner that takes into account “the desirability of promoting [his/her] reintegration and [his/her] assuming a constructive role in society.”
Juvenile Justice caseworkers manage cases for "best case" outcomes and "case closed" status. When they are assigned a client, the case worker monitors and supports that youth from their first offense through juvenile court, detentions and residential or other out-of-home placements. The progress of a youth through the juvenile justice system is often long and arduous from intake, booking, and registration to court action, fines, detention, sentencing, probation, and residential placement. Frequently, these same youthful offenders are "cross-over" cases that have come to the attention of both child protective services and juvenile justice case workers.
Your response to last week's blog on the social worker's role in juvenile justice was overwhelmingly positive but many of you thought that the issues might be better clarified in context. So, let's try to put juvenile justice in some historical perspective.
- During a single year, an estimated 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States.
- Though overall rates have been declining over the past years, approximately 1.7 million delinquency cases are disposed in juvenile courts annually.
- Youth are referred to the juvenile justice system for different types of offenses.
- The majority of youth processed through the juvenile court are adjudicated (i.e., declared by a judge to be) delinquent, for most offenses.
Drug and alcohol use remains a severe problem among school age children, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse showing that 5.4% of 8th graders, 9.8% of 10th graders, and 14.3% of 12th graders use illicit substances, and nearly 1.3 million teens have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, recovery treatment is often unsuccessful when teens return to their schools and are surrounded by the same peers and the same opportunities to use. Data shows that nearly 70% of students who attend recovery and return to their school will relapse in 6 months or less.
Since 1977 when Annie opened on Broadway, theatrical artists have been portraying endangered youth who have experienced both maltreatment and engaged in delinquent behavior like Oliver Twist and Little Orphan Annie.
Oliver! and Annie, two of Broadway’s most iconic musicals, star two children caught between Juvenile Justice and Child Protective Services.