Missouri Employs Families to Combat Delinquency

The juvenile justice system, in a sense, functions to replace a core family function: discipline of a child. While this is an important governmental role in some cases, it is necessary to ensure that families are not unnecessarily displaced, and in fact included in juvenile justice to the highest degree possible.

This is why family based juvenile justice programs often are very successful. Such programs return parents to their natural role of disciplinarian, and ensure that parents and youths are able to move forward with as little state involvement as possible.

Jackson County, Missouri, has adopted this precept with their Family Court program. The Family Court uses Parenting with Love and Limits theories, which seek to arm parents with the tools they need to discipline and control youths at home, and avoid placement in a secure facility.

Thirty-six families each year engage in eight weeks of home and group sessions that involve coaching parents through proper discipline, rewards, and punishments, as well as behavior contracts that strictly delineate proper boundaries for youth behavior.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation discussed the positive outcomes of Parenting with Love and Limits in the reentry setting earlier this year; the family focus used to avoid secure confinement in Missouri can similarly set juveniles on the path to law-abiding lives and positive family relationships.

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