Many adolescents misbehave at some point during their formative years. Some misbehavior gets the attention of police and courts. How do we hold youth accountable for misbehavior in developmentally appropriate ways? When is it appropriate to divert youth from the juvenile justice system? When we do invoke the coercive power of the justice system, how do we increase the probability that we do more good than harm?
The answer to these questions depends in part on the skills and training of the people making the decisions. A much-quoted adage says that if one’s only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. This volume presents a different tool kit. It shows how our 21st century understanding of adolescence is giving social workers an increasingly important role in shaping the modern juvenile justice system. We present a snapshot of ten countries and regions that suggests ways in which changes to policy and practice, catalyzed by a social work presence, can unleash the potential of youth to develop into contributing members of society.
Social work, in the countries and regions discussed in this volume, is increasingly important to the juvenile justice world. As governments recognize that youth are different from adults, and as youth crime continues to decline across the globe, there is increased political will to promote the welfare of youth. That is quintessentially the work of social workers. When society invests in social workers, crime decreases, and more youth become productive adults, contributing to their communities.