Juvenile Courts in the United States

By Herbert H. Lou | Go to book overview
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Chapter VIII


THE real test of the value of the juvenile court lies in the character of legal treatment in the form of court orders or judgments, and social treatment in the form of constructive work with the child or the family--treatment that it provides after the hearing of the facts. The juvenile court prescribes methods of treatment, not according to any set forms, but according to individual needs of the child as revealed by social, physical, and mental diagnoses regarding the child himself, his environment, and the essential causal factors responsible for his behavior, and according to a constructive plan arrived at by conference of the judge, probation officer, physician, psychologists, and the psychiatrist. The essential consideration in the disposition of cases and the treatment that follows is the welfare of the child. This is the most important task of the court, for here the court prescribes the remedial measures for the child and administers them either by its own probation officers or through some other agents authorized by it or provided by law. The existence of the juvenile court is to be justified not by any theory but by its intelligent administration of treatment and its actual success in saving the child.

The form of a court order or judgment in children's cases and the subsequent treatment of the case vary with the classes of cases and individual needs, according to the legal restrictions, the availability of facilities, the proportion of cases informally adjusted, and other circumstances.

There are, in substance, four ways in which a juvenile- court judge may dispose of a children's case and administer treatment: (1) dismissal, (2) probation, (3) home placement, and (4) commitment, that is, he may discharge the child, put him on probation, place him in a foster-family home, or commit him to an institution. An order of dismissal may be made upon a hearing or after "continuance," unaccompanied by probation order. In delinquency cases, orders of dismissal and probation may be accompanied by orders for restitution or reparation. In some instances, fines or other forms of


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