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Are grounded by the belief that parents who supervise and maintain good control of their children help deter criminal activity and delinquency. Parents who do not abide by these laws run the risk of being charged with fines or being faced with jail time. But, with these parental responsibility laws in places, who is really being affected? Are these laws helping with this growing problem or only contributing to the cycle? Is it really fair to punish parents for their children’s behavior? Imagine for a moment that you are a single parent trying to juggle two full time jobs.
You live paycheck to paycheck and receive little government assistance to help offset the bills. Providing food, adequate housing, healthcare, and other basic needs are your number one priority for your family.
On top of this stress, you have been racking up fines for the truancy of one of your children in high school. If you do not pay the $1,500 fine, you not only risk being sent to jail, but also loosing your children.
This is the sad reality for many parents across the United States who live in poverty. Contrary to what many might think, the poverty-stricken areas in the United States are not just restricted to urban ghettos and minority communities. The effects of poverty stretch far across America and greatly affects many rural areas too.
When comparing the differences between the middle class and poor communities, a correlation between stresses, lack of resources, and differences in cultural perspectives were most found to affect household income.
Families who struggle to provide the basic necessities are often met with many difficult challenges. The stress these families are under can affect marital and parent-child relationships and can result in children not receiving the attention necessary to thrive in the world. Without the necessary attention children need to grow physically and mentally, confidence and academic success tends to drop. In fact, in areas affected by poverty, education is one of the first things that tend to suffer. Many schools in these areas are so underfunded that do not provide any extracurricular or afterschool programs and children must sit in classrooms that lack the basic supplies to teach them.
These children, who grow up not having anything, grow up feeling trapped in their environment without any sign of improvement. They watch their parents struggle to go to work everyday at dead-end jobs to bring home a check that barely provides. As a result, some children begin to neglect their education or drop out of school to get their own money or try to help pay the bills despite a parent’s best efforts to try and keep them in school and out of trouble. Now, when we take into consideration how these laws can affect those living in poverty, it is important to also note that all children’s brains are constantly in a state of development. According to.
Adolescents often struggle with decision-making tactics. In addition to this they struggle with weighing the risks and benefits of specific choices. Adolescents’ prefrontal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for decision making, are not fully developed, which often leads to risky decision making. As children grow, they lack the ability to think situations through and tend to act on impulses. They do not think of consequences or how their actions can affect others. This is why many adolescents engage in risky behaviors and can find themselves in trouble with the law.
Parental responsibility laws were created to help keep children safe. However, when you have parents who are trying to provide and trying to guide their children at the same time, fining the parents or throwing them in jail is only hurting an already struggling demographic. Parents who end up being thrown in jail can loose a lot more than just their time. They can loose their job along with their ability to provide those basic necessities for their family and their children can be taken away from them and placed into foster care where they can be lost to the system. Afterwards, those parents will struggle to find another job with a criminal record on their file.
Some people might argue that parents should be held responsible for any damages that their children do to others or someone else’s property. Many people would argue that this is a civil liability that parents should be held responsible for and it’s just common sense because children are less likely to be able to pay for any damages that they cause themselves compared to their parents. However, if it were common sense, no one would take responsibility or claim fault for their own actions or the actions of their children. This is why we have laws and judges who weigh everything and decide who is liable through thorough careful deliberation and just trial but criminal sanctions are not always the best answer. Rather than looking to punish the parents, criminally, for the actions of their children or looking to punish the child by throwing them into boot camps or juvenile detention centers, more focus should be placed on programs that can help these children succeed in this complex social issue.
When you treat children like criminals; that is exactly what they are going to be. Punishing parents and children is an easy solution to a complex problem. It’s easy to look at a situation and throw fines at a parent but if more time and money were spent into funding programs that helped these children and their families, the outcome would be much different. Treat these children and parents like criminals and what you will see is a cycle that is perpetually repeated. But treat these children like they are the future of this world and you will not only change one life but many generations to come.
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