Missouri is often touted as having the best juvenile justice system; a program which is frequently uplifted and used as an example nationwide. It does, however, possess serious flaws.
Here are a few things that I’ve either learned the past few days, or that have just recently shown implications which can be vociferously questioned.
A parent must report a sixteen-year-old runaway. Fair enough; some sixteen-year-olds could survive on their own at least for a short time, but many could not and would be subjected to all manner of crime and criminals.
When the child turns seventeen, a parent is not mandated to report him as a runaway. Statistically speaking, many kids this age leave home, join the military, or even get married. In a lot of jurisdictions, kids this age can legally have sex too.
A child in Missouri is not legally an adult until age eighteen. This means that they cannot sign contracts or, practically speaking, sign a lease, buy a car, and so forth.
Before I continue, let’s take a closer look at these age qualifications. If my son left home at 17, the police will only bring him back if I report him as a runaway. However, I’m legally responsible for him until he turns 18. This is fact, and is referred to as the “17 Law” – it’s silly, as well as useless.
Let’s look at more silly and useless Missouri juvenile facts and issues.
Take, for example, a child who will not obey his parents, basically just refusing to do mundane things like daily chores, or asking permission to go out, or perhaps cursing and stealing others’ property. If he’s under 17, and gets mad and takes off running across town, a parent must report him to the police.
What will the police do? It greatly depends upon whichever officer answers the call.
Usually, an officer will come to take the report: name, age, description, what incited the teen to run; any officer may pick up the child. Regardless, the police bring the child home. Often they talk to the child as well – moral lessons about respecting one’s parents, obeying the rules, and so forth.
If the kid runs again? Parents must report the incident; the police must bring the kid back. Again. And again. No doubt most kids listen to the police and stop running. Some, of course, do not.
Can anyone explain the point? Family Court will not lock up a kid for status offenses; a status offense is one which would not be considered a crime if an adult committed the act, such as running away or truancy. So a status offense is unlawful, but not illegal.
An of course, police resources are being used, over and over, for this purpose – instead of law enforcement, police are being required to act as counselors, chauffeurs, and mere pencil-pushers. Instead of dealing with community safety, officers are required to pick up and return the same kids, over and over.
Unfortunately, some kids would probably benefit from being locked up in the slammer for a few hours or overnight; others should probably be there anyway, just to provide some relief for the officers.
Oh, sure, parents can file an affidavit of incorrigibility with the Family Court, and in a month or so they’ll call in you in to an assessment of services. Yes, three to five weeks is what we were told.
What else can parents do? Nothing. Yes, you can report your child; you must, after all, by law. You can insist upon respect and obedience, and your child will decide if he can live with that – or he’ll take off. You can let things go, but what will that accomplish? Your child will still run if he feels like it. You can ignore him, or conversely give in to his whims and demands and then what? Again, nothing. Your child gets to call the shots, and parents and officers must kowtow to his moods.
You may have noticed that I alternate between “child” and “kid”. To me, a child is someone who has not yet reached the age of say, 14 or 15, depending on the individual; a child is not someone who has a job, or a drivers’ license, or a debit card. A kid or a teen is, of course, one who is a teenager but has not yet reached the age of majority.
Here’s the problem: the social services group attracts the bleeding-heart liberals to who wish to “fix” children; these people believe that “children” are those who are not yet legally adults, yes, but also often those who are under the age of 25. Yes, folks, it’s true – these social workers and counselor are consistently attempting to blame poor choices and antisocial behavior on parents, home life, law enforcement tactics, divorce, birth order, poverty level, ad nauseum – because a “child” should not be held responsible.