Can At-Risk Children be Helped?

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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 cri... ... middle of paper ... Gerdes, K.E. & Segal, E. (2011). Importance of empathy for social work practice: integrating new science. Social Work, 56(2), 141-148. Harris, A. (2009). The role of power in shaming interactions: how social control is performed in a juvenile court. Contemporary Justice Review, 12(4), 379-399. Doi: 10.10880/10282580903342854 Maschi, T., Morgen, K., Hatcher, S., Rosato, N., & Violette. (2009) Maltreated children’s thoughts and emotions as behavioral predictors: evidence for social work action. Social Work, 54(2), 135-143. Segal, E., Gerdes, K., & Steiner, S. (2010). An introduction to the profession of social work. Third Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cenage Learning. Schwalbe, C., Hatcher, S., & Maschi, T. (2009). The effects of treatment needs and prior social services on juvenile court decision making. Social Work Research, 33(1), 31-40.
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