Children, their Families, and Juvenile Delinquency

Every eleven seconds one high school student drops out;
Every nineteen seconds a minor is arrested;
Every four minutes a minor is arrested for a drug-related offense;
Every seven minutes a minor is arrested for a violent crime.
One out of every three children will be poor during his or her lifetime.[1] 
By the age of 18, America's youth "have spent more time in front of a television set than in the classroom."[2]

These symptoms of serious societal problems are easily observable. The diagnoses and treatment for the underlying problem, however, is a much harder task; one that has sounded the alarm for years for many scholars who have offered an endless supply of theories.[3] 

Regardless of the cause, more and more minors are engaging in high-risk behavior, falling under the classification of "at-risk youth."[4]  These minors engage in activities such as drug use, alcohol, sex, gang activity, and crime.  Some estimates put the numbers at as many as twenty-five percent of the minor population, representing upwards of fifteen million children. 

The "chronic six percent," however, are those minors arrested four or more times while still a minor.  It is this group that does not age out of crime, but rather continues in what some refer to as a "delinquent career."[8]  It is this group that is believed to be responsible for "a significant portion of all delinquent" crime.[9]  The most frequent offenses committed by this group are "burglary, car theft, vandalism, and acts of violence."[10]

Austen Lake explores these root causes of juvenile delinquency, and focuses on a particular trend sweeping the nation's courts that is having drastic effects on minors and is arguably a contributing factor towards a less-than-truly-healthy juvenile populace. [11]  His article proposes that although the "average American family,"[12] may be in a state of transformation, the best interests of juveniles and consequently the state are served with the maintenance (and in some states) the revival of the natural parent presumption.   See his presentation below, and read his article here.

If you live in Virginia, you might be interested to know that the Virginia General Assembly is voting this week on some important bills relevant to this topic, most particularly some bills that undermine marriage. 

SB 1121, patroned by Senators Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond) and Mark Herring (D-33, Leesburg), would permit local governments to extend health and life insurance to "any other person" as agreed to by the insurer and the local government.  Included in "any other person" would be domestic partnerships between non-married hetero- and homosexual couples.  In essence, this bill creates domestic partner benefits for local government employees.

A second bill, HB 1122, also patroned by Senator McEachin, would allow the state to expand benefits in state government to cover domestic partners.  The fiscal impact statement done by the state admits this saying the bill, "could create an increase in costs paid by state agencies, state employees, and retired state employees under the state employee health insurance plan.  The cost to the state (and consequently the taxpayer) to these bills may not be determinable by the state, though the creation of this new entitlement will be extraordinarily costly for tax paying families in Virginia.  While the legislation is "permissive," and doesn't require that benefits be offered, this legislation is obviously the next step in the progression toward domestic partner benefits in Virginia.  The long-term consequence of this legislative track goes beyond finances to a threat to children, their families, and religious liberty.  Eventually, private employers may be forced to provide these benefits against their will in order to be eligible for government contracts.  This progression is indicative of what has already happened in many other states. According to the state constitution, "Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."  Insurance has long been recognized as a benefit of marriage in our Commonwealth.  This legislation would create a "class of persons" and assign them a benefit of marriage.  If you are interested in contacting your Senator regarding SB 1121 and/or SB 122 you may click this link http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/vaff/Nbf8c9Er.aspx to Virginia Family Foundation to log in and send your message accordingly.

[1] Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children Yearbook 2010 (Washington, D.C. 2010), available at http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-of-americas-children-2010-report-key-facts.pdf.
[2] E.g., Carleton Simon, The Causes of Juvenile Delinquency (1937); Manuel Lopez-Rey, Crime: An Analytical Appraisal (2002); Larry J. Siegel, et. al, Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law 5 (8th ed. 2003); Learning and Thinking: A Behavioral Treatise on Abuse and Antisocial Behavior in Young Criminal Offenders, 5.1 Int'l J. Behav. Consultation & Therapy 75 (2009); Angela Phillips, Like Father, Like Son, New Statesman & Soc'y, Nov. 19, 1993, at 32.
[3] See Causes of Conduct Disorder and Juvenile Delinquency (Benjamin B. Lahey et al. eds., 2003);
[8] James M. Henslin, Social Problems 176 (7th ed. 2006).
[9] Seigel, et. al, supra note 2.  See also William Barr, Crime, Poverty and the Family, 401 Heritage Lectures at 2, July 29, 1992, available at http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/hl401nbsp-crime-poverty-and-the-family (stating "the evidence is absolutely clear that the vast bulk of violent crime is committed by a very small group of chronic offenders.  Study after study shows that this tiny fraction of incorrigible, habitual offenders is responsible for hundreds and hundreds of crimes each while they are out on the street. A well known study in 1980, which followed 240 criminals, found that in an eleven-year period they committed over 500,000 crimes—an average of 190 crimes a year. And that corresponds to numerous other studies that show that kind of criminality. Another study of various state prisoners found that 25 percent of them committed 135 crimes a year; 10 percent of them committed 600 crimes a year. Every study shows a tiny cohort is responsible disproportionately for the vast amount of predatory violence.").
[10] Helen Gavin & David Hockey, Criminal Careers and Cognitive Scripts: An Investigation into Criminal Versatility, 15.2 Qualitative Report 389, Mar. 2010 (on file with author).
[11] Though also broader than the focus of this Note, for an in depth discussion of this trend see David D. Meyer, Parenthood in a Time of Transition: Tensions Between Legal, Biological, and Social Conceptions of Parenthood, 54 Am. J. Comp. L. Supp. 125 (2006).
[12] Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 64 (2000).

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