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How the parents of boys experience the youth justice system

Hillian, Douglas
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) M.S.W. thesis, Faculty of Human and Social Development, University of Victoria. Downloaded 4 March 2005.

This thesis examines how the parents of boys experience the youth justice system. It is a phenomenological inquiry conducted in the Capital Regional District of British Columbia. Based on the author’s background as a youth probation officer, the study suggests that the difficult task of parenting a young offender is made more onerous by the societal tendency to blame parents, the faulty-parenting paradigm. This tendency is institutionalized in our laws, and is apparent in the literature and the crime control trend manifested in parental responsibility laws. Apart from being blamed, parents are for the most part left out of both youth justice literature and meaningful participation in the youth justice system itself.
Blaming parents is demonstrated to be both unfair and unhelpful. The literature demonstrates that the faulty parenting paradigm takes no account of parenting in difficult circumstances, of the understudied effect of children on their parents, nor the structural and legal constraints that impact upon parents. Also left out are the best practice considerations of support and empowerment. The author proposes a structural social work framework to both analyse and address this issue.
The research presents the results of interviews with ten parents with past encounters with the youth justice system, chronicling their experiences of stress and loss, the work of coping, and the difficult aspects of the system. The author calls for a renewed debate on youth justice that takes account of parental experience, and challenges the proposed Youth Criminal Justice Act. Proposals are made for systemic change to facilitate enhanced parental support and empowerment based on the community change model of youth justice. Author’s abstract.


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