Child before the juvenile justice system

If knowing the status of the child remains one of the concerns in juvenile courts, it should be the case that statements from the child be given the heaviest merit. Although it can be agreed that parents, too, have a definitive role in determining the juvenile’s status through parental communication with the child, it all the more reaffirms the presumption that the direct statements from juveniles should be given the most weight above the interpretations from those who are proximal to the child.

While it may be true that parents have a more ‘mature’ view towards the child in contrast to the child’s view towards himself or herself, it does not completely nor does it partially dissolve the idea that children know themselves better than anybody else. Since statements from juveniles reflect ‘innocence’ in contrast to their parents, determining the status of the juvenile would be devoid of error and regret.

In contemporary times, the juvenile court in Utah, in parallel to other juvenile courts and in contrast to Hart’s observations in 1910, “decides guilt or innocence” of the offending juvenile through the Juvenile Court Hearing (“Juvenile Justice System Process Description,” 2004). Nowadays, juvenile courts in general have the capacity to determine the “appropriate sentence” for the juvenile of whom the “charges are true” (“When a Minor Commits a Crime,” 2007).

Considering these crucial facts, decisions either from parents or from the juvenile should be granted with more consideration than the earlier years since the current form of the juvenile courts already enables these courts to determine the guilt of the juvenile and provide corresponding legal sanctions. It can be argued that parents, for reasons of adulthood, have already undergone the “time of increasing ability to regulate emotions” as well as the period of engaging in “effective coping processes” (Whitbourne, 2001, p. 101).

While these contentions may hold true presumptions to a certain extent, one cannot deny the idea that these same adults have also undergone the childhood stages. Consequently, one can understand the notion that the juvenile stage is crucial as it serves as the foundation for the behaviors manifested in adulthood. Hence, for reasons of not only preserving the welfare of the juvenile but also “rehabilitation” as the “primary goal” of juvenile courts (Katzmann, 2002, p.123), the juvenile must indeed be given the most and proper consideration. One means of fully realizing this end is to give the juvenile the central role in crafting reasoned decisions.

The fact that a juvenile “cannot appeal a transfer decision until after a conviction (Ayers, 1997, p. 32)” conversely illustrates the point that juveniles are legally granted to make certain decisions within the limits of the law. By allowing the juvenile to create decisions even with parental opposition, ‘rehabilitation’ becomes a step closer.

The very notion of ‘innocence’ as espoused by Wolgast (1993), when juxtaposed with the juvenile justice system’s intent to ‘rehabilitate’ the juvenile after being found guilty of the charges committed, becomes the breeding ground for not only rehabilitating the juvenile per se but in promoting the welfare of the juvenile. By allowing the juvenile to create reasoned decisions, the juvenile is trained to handle situations an adult will more or less likely face in the future.

And since the duration of an individual’s life may properly be considered as the same stretch of time of a person’s learning, allowing the juvenile to create reasoned decisions will further the learning of the juvenile thus preparing the child for similar instances in the future. Nevertheless, granting the juvenile such option can overlap with the desire of the parents to further the rehabilitation of the child in several cases.

One of these is the case where the parent will most likely encourage the child to create his or her decision after a thorough discussion with the child of the parents while the juvenile is under their custody. It is not a farfetched idea to say that the decisions of children, even in the simplest situation, will be affected by the opinion and advice given by the parents. Nevertheless, the decision in this instance still remains on the child assuming that the child is given the liberty to speak before the juvenile court.

In essence, while adulthood may guarantee that parents have already acquired substantial experience, innocence remains the “best and most desirable” attribute as it amounts to the “complete absence of error and regret” as well as the corresponding “anxieties” attached to committing error and regret (Wolgast, 1993, p. 297). Juvenile innocence, even from amongst juvenile offenders, remain higher than adults, especially parents. A juvenile can still create reasoned decisions amidst existing juvenile-parent oppositions.

Even with the hopes or expectations that the interest of the parents and the child will be in harmony, there can still be instances when the interests of both parties—that is, the child and the parent—may come into conflict. To say that interests may conflict implies the idea that both sides essentially have interests. Hence, as parents have interests towards the welfare of their child before the juvenile justice system, the juvenile, on the other hand, also has his or her own set of interests.