Delinquency has persisted as one of the most disturbing social problems (Wollan, 1941). According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) 2007 report, juvenile courts are being challenged by the increasing number of child delinquents coming before them. Juvenile courts in the year 1997, handled more than 180,000 juvenile offenders younger than thirteen years. Snyder (2001) found out that juvenile courts handled an increase by 33% of juveniles aged between 7 and 12.It has been noted that compared to juveniles who first get involved in delinquency in their teens, child delinquents aged younger than thirteen years are most likely to become serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders. This is an issue of great concern as these young offenders are most likely to continue with their involvement in crime. These juvenile arrests involved crimes such as arson, sexual offences and other violent crimes. Sparked by the increasing number of child delinquents, the public concerns regarding them have escalated.
In Northern Florida, there has been a significant increase in the number of child delinquents who have become a menace to communities. This engagement in delinquent behavior has seen many of the juveniles dropping out of schools, engaging in drug use and dependency, adult criminal behavior and also injuries among them. This has become a worrying trend as the costs incurred by the families and community in general in trying to deal with these delinquents are usually very high. According to Krisberg & Patino (2004), most people in Northern Florida are for the view that there is need of coming up with early prevention and prevention programs as it is the only sure way of diverting juveniles from the adverse consequences as a result of delinquency and also promote social harmony (Department of Juvenile Justice Florida, 1995). There is the need for specialized services for the children to wraparound and intensive services that would involve the entire family.
There are a lot of risk factors that increase a juvenile’s likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior, but to counteract these risk factors, certain protective factors have been found effective in minimizing a juvenile’s likelihood in the engagement of delinquency. These risk factors are centered on four areas that include the individual, his or her family, peers and the school or community. Antisocial behaviors, poor cognitive development at early ages, mistreatment at family level, poverty, negative peer pressure, failure to bond in schools and low academic performance are some of the issues that may lead to delinquent behavior. Protective factors such as the ability to discuss problems with parents and positive social orientation are some of the methods that can be used to minimize the risk factors leading to delinquent behaviors. Delinquency prevention efforts primarily are comprised of identification of risk factors that lead to delinquency, the addressing of those risk factors and the building on the protective factors to offset the risks (Huizinga, 2007).
In Northern Florida I would develop a mentoring program, which has been proven an effective delinquency prevention strategy. Mentoring can be defined as the relationship between a young person and an adult in which the adult provides support and guidance. Over the years mentoring has received much attention as a promising program to enrich the lives of children, addressing their needs for positive adult contact and the provision of one-on-one support and advocacy for the children who need it. This would involve the formation of the groups like the Big Brothers or Big Sisters of America which reaches out to children in need of guidance, socialization and connection with positive role models. This program would involve adult volunteers and youths who would serve as mentors and positive role models to the young children in Northern Florida. The mentors would be drawn from different places in Northern Florida, volunteering to make a significant commitment of time and energy to develop relationships with the children. These relationships would be devoted to the personal, academic, social, career growth of the children. These mentors would be involved in the identification of all risk factors contributing to delinquent behavior in Northern Florida and coming up with protective factors that would be aimed at countering the risk factors and promotion of positive behavior.
The mentors would be involved in visiting families, schools, sports grounds, churches and other social places frequented by children. In these places, the mentors are to engage the children in different activities like attending classes, teaching, role playing and playing games just to build a bond with the children at first. The mentors are to engage in some of the activities that the children would be involved in to ensure that they build friendly relationships and trust among them. Further on, after building friendship and trust, the mentors can now engage the children at fruitful discussions aimed at promoting their positive personal growth, improving academic performance, fostering positive social skills and behaviors among other protective factors. The mentors would also be involved in creation of awareness to the community on the need of eradication of delinquent behaviors through identification of all factors leading to such behaviors among juveniles through mentorship to children. The volunteers are also to find out some of the problems the children might be going through and channeling efforts towards resolution of the problem to ensure the children are at peace. If some of the problems are family related, the mentors would engage the parents in resolution of the problems the child might be going through. The mentors are to engage the community members in gearing efforts toward the promotion of social harmony.
According to the OJJDP, study on mentoring programs that considered attitudes and behaviors, academic performance, relationships with friends and families and social activities among other issues, found out that the juveniles were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. The study also found out that juveniles and youth being mentored were more likely to improve their grades in schools and their relationship with their friends, families and the community as well.
The behaviorist theory focuses on how environmental interaction influence behavior. Core to the behaviorist theory is the assumption that both human and animal behaviors are determined by reinforcement and learning. Development and learning is attributed to environmental influences (Skinner, 1974). B. F Skinner, a behaviorist theorist, noted that a child’s learning and behavior can be shaped by providing rewards and punishment. He believed that if a behavior is rewarded it is most likely to be repeated in future but if it is punished it is less likely to be repeated in future. Positive reinforcement would lead to repeated behavior while negative reinforcement would not lead to repeated behavior (Skinner, 1974). Skinner believed a great deal in diversity of children behaviors exists since children experience different rewards and punishment from their parents or adults in their lives.
Mentoring juveniles in North Florida would heavily rely on this theory. Delinquency prevention heavily relies on the promotion of protective factors that counter the risk factors that lead to delinquent behavior. Early identification of the risk factors to delinquent behavior to juveniles by the mentors and the negative reinforcement of them would lead to a less likelihood of those behaviors being repeated in future by the juveniles. The mentors would also be involved in the promotion of positive behavior among the children from an early age; this would result in positive behaviors among the children. If the delinquent behaviors are punished, they are less likely to be repeated and the reward of positive behaviors would lead to a repeat of those positive behaviors in future. This theory would determine what behaviors to expect in future from the juveniles when positive behaviors are promoted by the mentors.
Albert Bandura is famed for the social learning theory. It is a theory that believes children learn new behaviors through the observation the behavior of other people (Bandura & Walters, 1963). Bandura believed that through the observation of the actions of others including peers, parents other community members, children acquire new skills and information. The Bobo doll experiment proved that children learn and imitate what they observe in other people. Today the social learning theory plays a key role in learning and both teachers and parents have noted the importance of modeling appropriate behaviors. For the effectiveness of this theory to the mentoring program, the mentor have to follow the key steps including getting the attention of learners, making them understand and retain information, make them able to reproduce what is learnt and the learners need to be motivated in learning. The mentors in North Florida have to model the right behaviors among the juveniles. As their role models, they have to exhibit good behaviors that the juveniles may be able to learn from them. When the mentors model the appropriate positive behaviors, the juveniles would be able to learn from them and able to reproduce those behaviors in future. This would enable the eradication of delinquent behavior.
Ethical, Legal and Diversity considerations
Ethical concerns in delinquency prevention are complex and multidimensional and may or may not be addressed in professional code of ethics or law (Elrod & Ryder, 2011). Codes of ethics serve the purpose of educating and informing professionals about ethical behavior. They often mandate for the best practices that most aspire. In delinquency prevention it is important for the mentors to be confidential about the problems that some of the juveniles are experiencing either at school or at home.
This would be vital since the lack of confidentiality may deter efforts to prevent delinquency among juveniles. It should also be noted that juveniles are also offered the protections of freedom of expression and religion, and also in some instances the protections against self-incrimination by the US constitution. These protections would apply to the juveniles under the care of the mentors. The Safe and Drug Free Schools Act sets forth the criteria for federal funding to support violence prevention programs such as the mentorship program. The mentoring program should also take into account the diversity of juveniles in terms of race, gender and attitudes and beliefs. No juvenile should be left out of the mentorship program as a result of discrimination.
Interaction between the Mentorship Program and with the Juvenile Justice System
The Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act, was designed to encourage states to develop plans and programs at community levels aimed at discouraging juvenile delinquency. The Florida Department of Justice aims at increasing public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through the effective prevention of delinquency behaviors, timely interventions and treatment services that would in turn strengthen families and reform lives of troubled youths. The mentorship program would be in line with this mission as it would aim at fostering positive behaviors and the promotion of social harmony (Greenwood, 2006). The Juvenile Justice System is comprised of a number of key stakeholders with a vested interest in preventing delinquent behaviors among juveniles. Stakeholders include policy makers, juvenile courts, child welfare agencies, public schools systems and law enforcement agencies among many more others.
Mentors can be drawn from all these areas with the main aim of discouraging delinquent behaviors. Having experts on the program would greatly improve the effectiveness of the program as wider topics with regards to reduction in juvenile crimes would be covered. The mentors would be in a position of identifying risk factors and delinquent behavior; hence they would play a key role in prevention of the children’s progression in the juvenile justice system (Kessler & Kauss, 2007). Many jurisdictions usually lack the resources to adequately deal with the underlying causes of delinquent behavior and thus the mentors would play a role in filling this gap in the Juvenile Justice system. Many juveniles in the juvenile justice system often face barriers to academic achievement. This program should focus on helping at-risk children achieve their educational potential.
Impact of the Mentorship program on the Juvenile Justice System
The mentorship program in Northern Florida would greatly reduce the amount of delinquency cases reported. As the juveniles are being mentored, many of them would refrain from delinquent behavior opting for the positive behaviors that promote social harmony in the communities. The significant drop in the number of juvenile cases would relieve pressure from the juvenile courts that receive high numbers of juvenile cases daily. The reduced number of cases of delinquent behavior would also strengthen families and communities, and also promote the peaceful co-existence among community members. Mentorship would greatly reduce the number of juvenile crimes reported as most of the youths in the program would be mentored on social skills and services, personal growth, attitude and behaviors among may other areas (Hess & Orthman, 2011).
Time would be the greatest challenge. It has been widely noted that effective mentoring programs take steps and time to build long lasting relationships. As a challenge, I would ensure that participants agree to maintain their mentoring relationships for longer periods, at least a year. This is because mentoring programs that last for a longer period of time have been proved effective in producing better results and shorter mentoring periods have been found to produce negative results (Small, 2005). I would also ensure that the mentoring programs take place frequently like thrice a month for to ensure better relationships between the participants.
Mentorship requires the best mentors or else the program would fail (Small, 2005). I would ensure that mentors are adequately trained and supported throughout the program. Through training the mentors would receive skills of building relationships with participants to ensure an effective program. The mentors would also be taught on social skills and the professional codes of conduct. An evaluation program would also be formed to assess the effectiveness of the program at different time periods.
Mentorship programs are usually very costly. Mentorship would require lots of resources for it to be effective. Resources range from stipends for the mentors and participants to motivate them, books, play material among many others. I would ensure that the North Florida community fully supports the program through regular contributions and also solicit for funds from the juvenile justice department. Organization of charitable events aimed at raising money for the programs would also be important.
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