Despite the best efforts of any parent, children are quite capable of and even likely to make mistakes and bad decisions occasionally. Oftentimes, these mistakes will be minor and require little more than a punishment from Mom or Dad in the form of grounding or restricted privileges.
Unfortunately, every year, thousands of kids make mistakes that are much more serious and they wind up in the juvenile court system. According to a report released by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, over 90,000 children were referred to Tennessee Juvenile Court in 2012.
This annual report can help shed some light on the big picture of juvenile crime in Tennessee. For example, the report notes that of the total number of children referred to juvenile court:
- Over 62 percent are Caucasian
- Over 34 percent are 10 or younger
- Nearly 40 percent live with just their mother
- Nearly 85 percent of cases involving children 17 or older were transferred to adult court
The report goes on to break down several other factors regarding children referred to juvenile court in 2012, but what we can take away from this handful of statistics is that there are thousands of families dealing with the stress, fear and frustration of the juvenile court system. And trying to understand this system alone can be very complicated for everyone from the youngest offenders to the older teens facing the potential of being charged as an adult.
While parents and guardians can be disappointed if and when a child makes a bad decision and ends up facing legal consequences, it is important to support a child during such a difficult time. A youthful mistake or indiscretion should not have to destroy a young person's future. Instead, children who are accused of a juvenile offense should have legal representation to protect them and identify appropriate alternatives to serious penalties.