This section defines and discusses the jurisdictions of the juvenile and family courts as well as their influences on social work practice. The history of the court, several interpretations of it, as well as various reform efforts are reviewed. Opportunities for social workers to be employed by the numerous agencies affiliated with the court, as well as several nontraditional social work roles, are outlined in this section. The final two parts of the section discuss the major innovations and primary challenges faced by the contemporary court such as gender, class, and racial biases in the system, questions about the effectiveness of the court and associated programs. Finally, proposals to abolish or reinvent the juvenile court are presented.
Larraine M. Edwards
Julia Clifford Lathrop (1858–1932), an advocate of child welfare and mentally ill people, helped found the country's first children's mental hygiene clinic, the Juvenile Psychopathic Institute, in 1909. She became the first director of the U.S. Children's Bureau in 1912.
Truancy, or unexcused chronic absenteeism from school, has been linked to school dropout, early onset criminal behavior, drug use, and other negative behaviors. Given the negative impact of truancy on the future outlook for students and the potential costs for society, many communities have begun to identity programs or collaborations that might reduce truancy and improve academic achievement of students. An increasingly key partner in such efforts is the courts. Truancy is defined as a legal term and the role school-based or affiliated truancy courts play in truancy is significant. The Stop Truancy Reduction Program in the United States needs to be emphasized as a model for the ways in which courts can partner with school personnel, social workers, and other mental health counselors to address truancy and its associated problems.
John F. Longres
Mary Ellen Richmond (1861–1928) formulated the first comprehensive statement of direct social work practice principles. She founded the Public Charities Association, the juvenile court, and the Housing Association, and helped to develop teaching materials for Charity Organization Societies nationwide.