Violent Juvenile Offenders and the Social Work System

The incidence of violence in juvenile offenders is on the rise. After significant reduction and mitigation of juvenile crime over the past decade, statistics are beginning to show a renewed trend upwards in violent juvenile crime. (Snyder, 2007) While overall, the number of juvenile arrests has been declining since 1996, in many categories, especially robbery and homicide, the numbers continue to rise. (Snyder, 2007) Since the juvenile justice system has begun incorporating social work into its program of deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation, many different theories as to best practices have been proposed.

(Snyder, 2007) Categorically, those theories fall into three areas: prevention, education, and therapy. These three categories promote social justice by giving advantages to those offenders or potential offenders who carry more risk than others to become violent juvenile criminals. One category of social work that has addressed violent juvenile offenders is prevention. There are three risk factors that predict the occurrence of violence in young people that occur in early infancy, or during pregnancy.

(Elliott, 2001)They are adverse maternal health behaviors during pregnancy, neonatal abuse or neglect, and troubled maternal life course. (Elliott, 2001) A social program called Prenatal and Infancy Home Visitation by Nurses sends nurses to first-time mothers in poverty-stricken areas to improve maternal health, habits parenting skills, and increase the likelihood of a healthy birth. (Elliott, 2001) These visits occur once or twice a week, and focus on helping expectant mothers develop a safe, happy and healthy environment for their new children.

(Elliott, 2001)This program promotes social justice by providing free preventative medical advice and care to a population who would otherwise be disinclined to seek such care on their own. Lacking the necessary education to realize the need, or the necessary money to seek such care, these individuals have a greater need for intervention than do others. A second category of preventative social work is that of education. There are several programs in the field of Social Work that promote education to mitigate the incidence of violent juvenile behavior.

The Incredible Years program is designed to educate families for the purpose of promoting social competence and preventing and dealing with conduct issues with children before they escalate to violent juvenile offences. (Elliott, 2001)Another program in social work is taught in schools as an integrated part of the curriculum. The PATHS program was developed to help children learn critical thinking strategies, which may, in turn prevent inappropriate behavior later in life.

(Elliott, 2001) Another program, the Bullying Prevention Program, promotes education and intervention in school bullying on the school, classroom, and individual level. (Elliott, 2001) These programs, implemented in high-risk schools, promote social justice by giving extra normative behavior training and decision-making skills directly to students at a young age to help them develop the tools necessary to make socially appropriate decisions later in life. A third category of social work designed to address violent juvenile offenders is that of therapy.

Functional Family Therapy is an alternative to punitive measures aimed at correcting the behavior of violent juvenile offenders. (Elliott, 2001) It employs a multitude of therapeutic modes to account for a multitude of situational circumstances. This is a short term program is designed to enable families to identify and modify inappropriate behaviors. (Elliott, 2001) Multisystemic Therapy pursues similar goals, but takes place in the home environment to facilitate generalization.

(Elliott, 2001)A final form of therapy designed to help rehabilitate juvenile behavior is Multidimentional Foster Care. (Elliott, 2001)This program combines many elements of education, remediation, and prevention. It takes the youth out of contact with risky peers, places him/her in a family environment that models stability and normalcy, and teaches the offender that there are other methods to handle difficulties other than violence. (Elliott, 2001) All of these measures are the ways Social Work promotes social justice.

By targeting at risk areas with specified help, the Social Work system “levels the playing field” for children, thus decreasing their tendencies toward violent behavior. ?


Elliott, D. et al. (2001) “Blueprints for Crime Prevention” Retrieved November 25th, 2008 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Website: http://www. ncjrs. gov/html/ojjdp/jjbul2001_7_3/contents. html Snyder, H. (2007). “Juvenile Arrests 2006”. OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Retrieved November 25th, 2008 from: http://ojjdp. ncjrs. gov/ojstatbb/crime/qa05101. asp? qaDate=2006. ?