Understanding Delinquency and Helpful Hints to Parents

By Dr. Susan Feneck


What juvenile justice means to you and how to avoid what could potentially be a very difficult experience most often depends on if you are properly informed or not. You shouldn’t be left to feel like you are the one behind the razor wire. It is widely known that youth are less likely to re-offend when they are in the system and are treated with respect and dignity. Learned behaviors go a long way…so if a child is treated fairly they will act with outward kindness, if they are spoken to rudely or shackled and hog tied like an animal, chances are more likely they will get out and act like one and therefore won’t be long before they are back again. Both positive and negative attitudes can be formed from being in a detention facility. Being newly exposed to lessons from other detained delinquent youth while in a detention facility most often are not positive role models and can leave the statistical rates of negative impressions, and negatively formed attitudes to go thru the roof, again, depending on their experiences. Detained youth can learn negative reinforcing lessons and when they get out, they may have an upsetting memory that can leave a scar that they feel they can only act on. Often times, detained youth in detention facilities form bonds and develop a new set of “friends” that most often will keep them in trouble or at times leave an impression they may want to be just like due to them thinking they are cool or tough.

Yes, chances are pretty high that for whatever reason the youth is being incarcerated is with good reason. If you could only imagine, being stripped searched, and being put into a jumpsuit and shackled behind steel doors or even the lesser of restrictions, a non-secure facility can leave a youth with plummeting self-esteem along with other unpleasant side effects if you will say. As youth progress and live and learn thru the system it is very important to try and stay as close to your child in every way possible.

Helpful hints to the parents of youth who just got locked up:

  • Become involved with your child’s school… a youth involved in the juvenile justice system nearly quadruples the chances that they will drop out of school.
  • Set an appointment to speak with the Principal, teachers, and guidance counselor. If you don’t have the time, at least try and email the people who are a priority in the school system, and remember, teachers and others never forget small tokens of appreciation.
  • See if together, you and your child can look deeper into the reasons behind your child’s behaviors, grades and any other contributing factors that may have led to his/her involvement in the Juvenile Justice System.
  • Be completely aware of who is involved in your child’s case such as the social worker, probation officer and any other officials. They are there to help.
  • Find out what options your child has internally and upon release and how you can become involved once he/she gets out.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the police to learn more about the arrest.
  • Don’t be afraid to go directly to the detention facility where your child is being detained and ask to speak to the Detention Supervisor (they know the every detail of each one of their residents).
  • When you have the opportunity to speak with your child, try and have a positive attitude with positive reinforcing perhaps even inspirational support, not blame and judgment. No blame and negative comments…we’re all in this together.
  • Be there for your child, don’t let them down.
  • Think about realistic and positive consequences and discuss them.
  • Try and give options to your child such as volunteering in places where they can really learn positive life lessons such as children’s hospitals, soup kitchens for the homeless, food pantries, other youth organizations etc…
  • Several studies show that youth who experience such extreme conditions are most often traumatized in a way that brings on violent and resentful behaviors after being exposed to an environment such as a detention facility. Keep in mind that your son or daughter can be helped and quite honestly, it is your hand that they need to hold and your voice they need to hear knowing that you will be there for them.

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