This paper attempts to analyze the juvenile court process specifically in the context of the juvenile’s rights as opposed to the rights of the parents. Although there may be overlapping similarities between the rights of the two parties, the paper looks into instances where there are existing oppositions even with the hopes or expectations that the interest of the parents and the child will be in harmony. By looking into the instances wherein the interest of one may override the other, the paper nevertheless upholds the presumption that a juvenile has the capacity to create reasoned decisions.
Juvenile Court Process: Juvenile’s Rights versus Parent’s Rights It is indeed sensible to hope and even expect that the interests of the child and the parents will be and remain in harmony in the juvenile court process. Quite on the contrary, the IJA/ABA Juvenile Justice Standards concedes that this is not usually the case and that, conversely, when there is a clash of interest between the two the juvenile remains with the right to control the direction of the case in all but two instances .
During the hearing of the case’s probable cause as well as during the dispositional hearing, the parents have an independent and equal right to share their opinion if the child expresses an interest to admit the accusations. However, the decision of the parents does not automatically supersede the decision of the juvenile and that the administering juvenile court judge should decide which decision to recognize or reject. Further, this suggestion is founded on the presumption that a child or a juvenile has the competence to arrive at reasoned decisions.
The idea that the interests of the juvenile and the parent can come into conflict is rooted on the idea that their individual rights would also have to come into conflict which essentially leads to the notion that both the parents and the juvenile have rights specifically in instances where the juvenile is involved in a legal case. In order to arrive at the fuller analysis of the contrasting or conflicting interests and rights between the juvenile and the parents, it is imperative to first look into the respective rights of the two parties.
Otherwise, the efforts to identify and weigh the merit of the perceived opposition would not be sufficient nor will it be critical and, at the least, founded on the basic premises needed to establish the larger presumption that a juvenile has the capacity to create reasoned decisions. Juvenile cognition In legal court cases, it has been seen that even the accused individual has certain forms of protection which can be roughly considered as ‘rights’ (“Rights of the Accused in Interstate Fugitives,” 1927, p.75).
Moreover, it has been seen that the parents of the child have an “independent right of appeal” assuming that the dispositional order with regards to the child has consequences on the right to custody of the juvenile’s parents even when it is “against the juvenile’s wish” (Ketcham, 1977, p. 218). There are still quite a number of explicit and implicit rights both of the accused juvenile and the parents of the child before, during, and after legal court cases.
The fact that juvenile court system was established on grounds that juveniles are both “cognitively and morally undeveloped” and that juvenile offenders are easily influenced and swayed towards “moral and social rehabilitation” (Ainsworth, 1996, p. 64) does not necessarily amount to the idea that juveniles are devoid of rights in legal battles. Quite on the contrary, there are arguments which forward the notion that juveniles already have cognitive and moral senses.
For one, Simmons and Rosenberg (1971) argue that it is at the time when the child attends school that the person is able to make “decisions and formulates aspirations and plans” that drive the individual to “an ultimate occupational choice” (Simmons & Rosenberg, 1971, p. 235). Assuming the argument to be true, it can be maintained that a juvenile has rationality reflected in the child’s decisions and formulations of goals in life. Correspondingly, it leads to the idea that juveniles may already have, at least, a cognitive sense.
Not surprisingly, there are evidences that pinpoint one to the idea that, indeed, juveniles have a cognitive sense, able to understand situations in various contexts. Much of these evidences are largely found in real-life cases. In schools, for instance, young students are expected to abide by the school policies within the campus premises. Otherwise, these students are to be held liable for their actions and, correspondingly, a punishment or similar forms thereof will have to be given to them.
As a result, children then duly act in accordance to the existing school policies reinforced not only by the guidance of the teachers but of the parents and peers as well. While it remains true that students may tend to not follow the school regulations and even the simplest classroom regulations, one cannot simply dismiss the fact that these students nevertheless attempt or at least show a sign of abidance to these rules or even simple learning instructions in one way or another. For example, Puro and Bloome (1987) perceive that a teacher asks classroom questions “to help the student comprehend and understand”.
In essence, students are primarily asked in the classroom to “display comprehension (Bloome & Theodorou, 1985, p. 21)”. Although one can contend that the school is only one of the many sections of the larger society that shapes the cognitive sense of the juvenile and is not a sole requirement to establish the cognitive sense of juveniles, one cannot also easily dismiss the idea that the school is “the crucible where the prime elements of education all mix together (Kumaravadivelu, 1999, p. 454)”.
Further, the cliche that the home or the family is the first school reinforces the idea that at such a young age juveniles are treated as individuals capable of manifesting cognitive skills, not to mention the capacity to embrace and exhibit certain moral precepts and religious beliefs to some aspects. With these things in mind, we can safely assume that juveniles have, in one way or another, the capacity to manifest cognitive senses reflected in school as well as in their homes where learning is deemed to be the foundation of future learning (Lehane & Goldman, 1976, p.
376). Consequently, doubts as to whether juveniles have a cognitive sense can be cleared at least in the context of this discussion. Apart from all these, the contention is still maintained—that juveniles are both “cognitively and morally undeveloped (Ainsworth, 1996, p. 64)”—and remains the primary concern of this discussion.
Nevertheless, the argument that juveniles have cognitive and moral senses, although undeveloped, seals the premise that their capacity for cognition and moral understanding should not entirely be dismissed and should not be taken as an argument against the cognitive and moral capacities of the juvenile. In order to properly address the question of an ‘undeveloped’ sense of cognition and morality among juveniles, it is equally important to settle the idea of what may count as ‘developed’ in terms of cognition and morality.
Apparently, the observation that “children pass through stages of cognitive, social, and moral development (Krebs & Gillmore, 1982, p. 877)” leads to the assumption that to pass this stage is to ascribe completion, either in whole or in part, in these three aspects. To be an adult, roughly speaking, is to assume that the individual may have already passed the ‘development’ stages. Hence, these assumptions may establish the argument that children may indeed be ‘undeveloped’ in terms of cognition and morality while adults may reflect an individual who is ‘developed’ in these aspects.