Academic journal article Child Welfare

Massachusetts and Scotland: From Juvenile Justice to Child Welfare?

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Massachusetts and Scotland: From Juvenile Justice to Child Welfare?

Article excerpt

from juvenile delinquency toward child welfare cases has altered the system's capacity to fulfill a welfare-oriented approach to older adolescents. In Massachusetts, the juvenile court is becoming more welfare-oriented as older adolescents are claimed.

Comparative data from two systems of dual jurisdiction, the Massachusetts juvenile court and the Scottish children's hearings, is examined to explore the relative use of child welfare and juvenile justice referrals in the lives of children. In Scotland, a radical shift away In the early 20th century, juvenile courts were established in the United States and Scotland for humanitarian reasons. The aim was to separate children from the adult system and to focus on rehabilitation. The United States retains a court-based system, emphasizing due process and children's legal rights per the Supreme Court decision In re Gault, 387 US. 1 (1967). In 1971, Scotland introduced an integrated system of non-adversarial tribunals for decisionmaking for children referred on delinquency and child welfare grounds. In many jurisdictions, the separation of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems restricts examination of any connection between criminal and care jurisdictions in the lives of delinquent and deprived children. By comparison, systems of dual jurisdiction offer a synoptic view of the relative use of child welfare and juvenile justice systems in the lives of children referred.

This paper examines comparative data from two systems of dual jurisdiction: the Massachusetts juvenile court and the Scottish children's hearings tribunal system. It draws on statistical data routinely collected on juvenile justice and child welfare from the two jurisdictions in the last ten years (2000-2010) and key studies. This comparison offers three advantages. First, it provides an opportunity to unsettle the ethnocentric and culture-bound assumptions behind accepted policies and practices in respective jurisdictions-"to see the limits of our ways of seeing things" (Nelken, 2009, p. 392). Second, it reveals the capacity for changing selectivity over time between and within the juvenile court in Massachusetts and the tribunal in Scotland through observation of the relative use of juvenile justice and child welfare referral categories. In other words, are low levels of juvenile justice intervention associated with higher levels of child welfare cases? Or is there no correspondence between these two referral categories? Third, it yields a more accurate picture of the extended presence of the state in some children's lives by serial or dual involvement in juvenile justice and child welfare (AIHW, 2008).

There is a sound case for comparison of criminal and care jurisdictions in Massachusetts and Scotland. Both sit within wider jurisdictional influences and operate at a sub-national level, according to devolved or state powers from the national or federal government. U.S. states retain "primary authority" for their juvenile courts (Shook, 2005). In 1999, juvenile justice devolved to the newly established Scottish Parliament, notwithstanding the United Kingdom's international obligations, the European Convention on Human Rights (embodied in the Human Rights Act 1998), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, since 1991). The United States has not yet ratified the UNCRC.

Population size in Massachusetts and Scotland is similar: 6,631,280 citizens (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011) and 5,222,100 citizens (General Register Office for Scotland, 2010), respectively. Children under 18 years old (by UNCRC definition) represent around one-fifth of the population in both jurisdictions-21.7% in Massachusetts (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009) and 19.8% in Scotland (General Register Office, 2011). Both encompass significant rural areas and substantial urban conurbations.

A longstanding research alliance has developed between Massachusetts and Scotland. The first major study of the children's hearings involved the late Sanford Fox of Boston College (Martin et al. …

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