Assignment Individual and Family Risk Factors

Case Management – CJ445-01

Since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and increasing number of police jurisdictions have been hiring Case Managers to process their juvenile offenders. Their job is to assess their client’s needs, develop a service plan, link the client to appropriate services, monitor their client’s progress, and advocate for the client where appropriate. This is done to “reduce recidivism and address mental disorders, developmental disabilities, joblessness, homelessness, HIV/AIDS and other serious medical conditions, and such offenses as domestic violence and substance abuse among adult and juvenile arrestees, probationers, and parolees.” (Healey, 1999) Upon completion of the program that the case manager selects for them or the sentence given by the judge, the Case Manager must continue to provide supportive services such as helping their client reintegrate into their community, find treatment for drugs, pursue mental health services, and acquire assistance from social service agencies. Several risk factors of criminal behavior have been identified which allow case managers to step in before a crime has been committed.

According to youth.gov, a risk factor is defined as “anything that increases the probability that a person will suffer harm” and a protective factor is “something that decreases the potential harmful effect of a risk factor.” (Jessor, 2001) An example of an individual risk factor for a juvenile might be a child showing evidence of early antisocial behaviors because of deficits in self-regulation and cognition. These behaviors are generally aggressive and destructive in nature and might include poor impulse control and low behavioral inhibitions. Crimes such as stealing, physical assault, lying, fraud, property damage, aggression towards animals, and manipulating others for personal gain are common in adolescents with this type of juvenile offender. (mayoclinic.org, 2017) When parental involvement and discipline are minimal or non-existent, the negative behaviors accelerate. (Calkins & Keane, 2009) Unstable, violent, or chaotic family life during childhood also accelerates a child’s negative behavior. Children with antisocial behaviors are often excellent communicators and very likeable. They are often eager to please people and be considered “popular” in social settings despite their propensity for destruction and creating mayhem. (protective factors)

A case manager who has a client with antisocial behaviors could capitalize on their client’s existing strengths as a leader and communicator by putting them into a program where they are placed in a junior leadership position. This could be in their classroom at school, an organization within their community, or a formal diversion program after they have committed a crime. (Barnes, 2005) Leadership gives a child who is unaccustomed to discipline or consistency a sense of control over something in their lives, teaches them how to solve problems creatively, instills confidence, and promotes teamwork. It is also a means of developing responsibility and accountability which will set them up for success later in life. (extension.psu.edu, 2014)

Hyperactivity is another individual risk factor for juveniles because it can mean that the child acts recklessly and impulsively or they are generally disruptive. Hyperactive children are impatient and easily frustrated because they do not learn concepts and materials in school in the same manner or at the same speed as their peers, Additionally, they experience difficulty staying on-task, talk excessively, often fail to listen to instructions or follow directions, and they often fail to meet deadlines which makes their performance in school suffer. Boredom is the enemy of anyone in a supervisory position over a hyperactive child; when the child gets bored, they begin to act on impulse and behave disruptively. (Jessor, 2001) Contrary to popular belief, hyperactive children are not doomed to desolation or failure as adults. Most go on to live productive, successful lives because they are often highly intelligent (protective factor) and have either found a helpful balance of psychiatric medication, taught themselves alternative learning styles to cope academically, or a combination of both. (Jackson, 2011)

Because hyperactive children are already on-the-go constantly and have trouble sitting down for extended periods of time, it might be appropriate for a Case Manager to consider enrolling their client in a military school setting or a bootcamp program. Not only would the child learn valuable lessons in discipline, respect, teamwork, coping skills, and accountability which will help them later in life, they will also be exhausted enough from all of the physical training that they can be more successful in their schoolwork. Per bootcampsforteens.com, the best age to send a client to one of these programs is 13-15 years old. This would not be a “quick fix” or reform the client overnight; depending on the child’s age and the severity of their behavior, the program could take an average of six months to a year. The effect it could have on the client’s life (and troublesome behaviors) could be long lasting. (bootcampsforteens.com, 2016)

Abuse/domestic violence is not just limited to cuts, bruises, or broken bones. When this level of dysfunction and inconsistency exists in the home, it is an example of a family risk factor for criminal behavior. Children who are verbally, physically, sexually, or emotionally assaulted during childhood often become deeply scarred and their interpersonal relationships suffer. This is largely because they do not know how to treat people that they are in loving, caring relationships with. If the child is not victimized and just witnesses abuse happening to a sibling or another member of the household, they tend to struggle with intense anxiety, fear, depression, and trouble performing well in school. These children miss school frequently, are often withdrawn, do not have many friends, come to school with a disheveled appearance (because they have trouble sleeping,) and do not trust many people. They might engage in self-destructive behaviors such as cutting themselves, binge-eating, partaking in drugs/alcohol, or participating in promiscuous sexual behaviors. (Phillips, 2018) Frequently, children do not understand why their mother stays with their abusive father (or vice versa) and they grow up resenting their parent for “being weak.” There are several reasons that a mother or father might stay with their abusive significant other that a child cannot understand. The reasons might include a threat of killing the children, threat of killing him/her, threat of exposing a family secret, threat of humiliation, blackmail, or cutting him/her off from finances just to name a few. Fortunately for victims of abuse and their families, there are an increasing number of resources available. Whether it is confiding in a trusted friend or family member or going to a local domestic violence shelter, there is physical and legal protection available. (Jessor, 2001)

Helping a family find a counselor who specializes in the unique needs of domestic violence victims would be my first course of action after meeting a family who recently extricated themselves from an abuser. Each family member needs the opportunity to meet with an objective party and listen, but they would also benefit from receiving therapy as a group so that the children know how to help the parent and the parent can understand what their child’s needs are moving forward. The counselor can also refer the family to a psychiatrist as appropriate so that they can regain functioning, begin to sleep better, and decrease their anxiety.

Divorce is never ideal, and it is a lifechanging event that should be avoided whenever possible. The dissolution of the family unit can have devastating emotional effects on children and can invite violent crimes of passion if infidelity is involved. Because of these facts, divorce is a family risk factor for criminal activity. Change is never “fun” and adjusting to a new routine is never “easy,” but divorce takes change to a radical new level. The illusion of the safe, secure home that the child came home from the hospital to, the love that the children’s parents felt for each other, and the belief that dad would never cheat on mom are all shattered by the institution of divorce. Words like “custody,” “supervised/unsupervised,” and “I’m going to work” (if both parents didn’t previously work) are introduced into a child’s life and all of the traveling back and forth between two parents can become very confusing for them. The rules at dad’s house and the rules at mom’s house might differ, so there will inevitably be disagreements about that. When mom and dad begin to date other people, it becomes even more confusing for the children. What if they like dad’s new girlfriend? Are they betraying their mom? Is it “okay” that they enjoy playing basketball with mom’s new boyfriend? It’s a lot of change all at once and that can feel very overwhelming to a child; this might cause them to act out so that they feel some semblance of control or regain their parents’ attention. (Thompson, 2014) No matter what is going on in the family, open communication should always be encouraged. A family is no less a family to its children just because the mother and father stop loving each other, so it is vital to the children’s future success that they continue to do things together somewhat normally. (protective factor)

When a couple with a child(ren) divorces, their priority should be establishing a sense of family order and predictability. This means observing the three R’s required to restore a child’s trust in security, familiarity, and dependency: Routines, Rituals, and Reassurance. Similarly, when a couple with an adolescent child(ren) divorces, the child tends to become more independent and withdrawn because they no longer feel that they have security in anything but themselves. The juvenile’s self-interest must be addressed immediately, and they must be reassured that they are still a loved, wanted member of this family that has recently changed shapes. (Thompson, 2014) It is important during this transitionary period that the parents shift their focus from equitable division of assets to the emotional needs of their child(ren.) Although it might be difficult, this will require putting aside irreconcilable differences and presenting a united front at school functions, dance recitals, and other important events that matter to their child. If they cannot accomplish this united front and maturely co-parent, I would recommend that they attend a co-parenting class or help them find a family therapist.

As the reader can see, there is no risk factor that is universal or definitely indicative of upcoming criminal behavior. Each individual reacts to their circumstances differently and some are not affected at all. It remains important to study and be aware of these risk factors, however, so that as aspiring Criminal Justice professionals we can identify a negative behavior, act appropriately, and prevent further victimization in the future. It is also important to understand how the actions of someone else (a parent who abuses or a guardian who neglects for example) negatively affect children so that we can properly empathize and provide support.

For this assignment, I looked to multiple peer-reviewed sources from the fields of Psychology and general medicine in addition to the government agency websites for children and adolescents. Academic institutions such as New York University and Pennsylvania State University posted very valid and helpful information on their websites as well. Youth.gov was probably the most informative and helpful website I accessed because it is a one-stop shop for information about just about any topic related to juveniles, the Juvenile Justice system, and Case Management.