Missouri often has been held up as a model for juvenile justice programs around the country. And to an extent, this is probably true. There are more options that ever before for kids, and most kids benefit greatly from these types of programs.
Some kids, however, need a swift kick in the pants.
The programs here, and elsewhere, are set up with the premise that kids are “children” and can be rehabilitated; they are developed with the mindset that some kids get rotten breaks in life and need merely a nudge in the right direction. The programs – and the law – assumes that kids will benefit from mentoring, education, counseling, and so forth. And many will.
But some will not.
The system is designed to protect kids from the world at large, but specifically from uncaring or unresponsive parents. Of course, their rights as human beings must also be protected, just as those of adults.
Status offenses are targeted toward minors: breaking curfew, truancy, out of parental control, and so forth; these are things which would not be considered a crime if committed by an adult.
What are the penalties? None. Why? Because it’s assumed that these kids are acting out due to an extremely restrictive or abusive home life; it’s assumed that these kids just need guidance and care and concern, because their parents must not be providing it.
What, exactly, is the point of having status offenses listed on the books? If a kid commits a status offense, he is reported as having done so, and if absent from home he will be returned by the police. So he can do it again.
And again. Sometimes I think the police department is going to start charging us.
Nothing can be done – we are mandated to report him as a runaway, the police are required to bring him back. We spent six weeks or so doing this, along with false reports from our son to DFS and threatening and violent behavior, mouthing, attitude, lying, etc., back in 2007-08. We sent him to military school.
He went to Grandma’s for a week, and on his return in the summer of 2008, he ran off again, refused to eat or drink. He had a psych intake and overnight stay and group therapy for two weeks. No one could find anything “wrong”.
Why? Because he lies. About everything. And he’s very convincing, unless you’ve had to deal with him on any kind of frequent basis. The schools know this, the police know this, we know this. Yet, it continues.
Four counselors for brief periods, not counting group therapy, two psych evaluations, one hospital stay, and now an overnight, at least, in juvenile detention. How did we get to that? He hit me. I reported it.
Since he was expelled from school, he has run away at least once a week. He believes he’s above the rules, above the law. He believes he can do anything he wants, and that nothing he does is “wrong”. He lies, he destroys property, he may have set a fire, he does nothing at all when at home except watch TV. Make him, you say? Yes. We’ve tried. And he goes ballistic, because he’s above all that, in his mind.
He no concern for anyone or anything else. It’s all about him.
What does the system do? Well, after more than a dozen police calls, investigations, evaluations, and so forth – they took him in last night. Finally. They will probably release him today. And so we’ll start over again.
Some kids don’t or won’t learn. Some kids think they’re better than society’s rules and laws and that they don’t have to obey them. Too many kids think they have “rights” that involve doing and saying whatever they want. Whose fault is this? Society’s, of course. Because these kids know nothing will be done. They know they can lie to their parents and run off and the police merely bring them back.
It’s not the fault of the police. They’d love to not have to waste their time on punk kids and false reports. But they have to. It’s the law.
Something needs to change.