Unraveling the Web of Juvenile Justice: Formal and Informal Supports for Reintegrating Youths Returning From Placement

Jamie J. Fader, University of Pennsylvania

This study explores the role of families and aftercare workers inf acilitating the transition of adjudicated youths into their homes, schools, and communities after a stay in a residential facility. Through participant observation during home visits made by social workers at a large juvenile aftercare program in the northeast, I examine parental involvement during and after bouts of instituionalization. I focus on the relationship between families and aftercare workers, in light of the tendency of juvenile justice agents to see poor parenting as a key contributing factor to delinquent behavior. Existing research suggests that parents often resent the intrustion posed by court intervention and that parental accountability mandates exacerbate already tenuous family situations (Drakeford, 1997; Schaffner, 1997). At the same time, the juvenile justice system offers many services not otherwide accessible to inner-city families (e.g., academic support, job placement). Parents may tolerate or even welcome this involvement or develop resistance strategies to minimize the system's control while maximizing its role as a resource (Schneider, 1992). Understanding how families view aftercare services and how, in turn, their parenting is evaluated by social workers may serve to improve these services and better engage families in the aftercare process.

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Updated 05/20/2006