Families with Service Needs: The Newest Euphemism
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.
Stanley Z. Fisher,
Families with Service Needs: The Newest Euphemism,
Journal of Family Law
Available at: https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/919