Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date





University of Louisville




Juvenile court jurisdiction over "status offenders" - juveniles engaging in noncriminal misconduct such as truancy, running away, and "incorrigibility" - has become the subject of national debate. Most participants in the many-sided discussion agree that the system needs reform. The major disagreement, however, is between those who wish merely to reform the court's jurisdiction over this conduct, and those who would substantially eliminate it. This article concerns the newest reform proposal: to revise status offense jurisdiction under a new category entitled "Families With Service Needs" (FWSN). Proposed in 1977 by a federally funded task force, 5 the FWSN concept has been endorsed by the influential National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. One may therefore expect state legislatures to view the FWSN proposal as a model for reform.

This article will review the developments in juvenile court status offense jurisdiction leading up to the FWSN proposal. It will then describe and critically analyze the proposal, arguing that its adoption would not substantially improve the present system. To the contrary, its adoption would dangerously expand the juvenile court's power to intervene in family life. The proposal also raises important questions about the judiciary's proper role in allocating public services. These questions deserve careful study before states consider adopting the FWSN model.


The Journal of Family Law changed its name to the University of Louisville Law Review.

Link to Publisher Site (BU Community Subscription)



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.