Now that we have discussed how the basic needs of children include love, protection, a sense of nurturing and belonging, stability, and support, how do we ensure that youth within the foster care system are provided with these staples so they need not seek them from outside influences such as gangs? In this post, I will talk about how community-based services can help minimize and hopefully prevent gang involvement for youth within the foster care system, as well as ways in which we, as members of the community, may be able to provide these children with some sense of stability and consistency while they are in the chaos that is currently the foster care system.Continue reading “What Youth Need”
From the outside looking in, gangs are comparable to family systems. In fact, as I will explain below, some gangs explicitly refer to themselves as “families” or “brotherhoods” and have mottos that encompass this familial idea. Robert Muller, a psychologist specializing in trauma, explained “that young adults join gangs because they both act as a surrogate family, as well as provide a sense of belonging…” Based on interviews conducted with current and former gang members, Muller stated:
Several gang members said that being part of a gang meant you were never alone in the world, which is similar to how many people describe being part of a close-knit family or group of friends. Gangs provide members a sense of belonging and protection they do not receive from other relationships or experiences in life.
Is this sense of belonging and protection what attracts children to gangs in the first place? The interviews Muller relied on revealed that “Bloods, Crips, and MS13 members all say they can identify with ‘Scarface.’ The feeling of being an outsider, dismissed and looked down on, is what gang members say drew them to their crews.” This explains why children in the foster care system may be more prone to joining gangs: they are often times, unfortunately, labelled as outsiders and looked at differently in comparison to children who are not involved in the child welfare system – a key reason they may feel alone and like they do not belong anywhere.Continue reading “Gangs as Pseudo-Families: Giving Youth What They “Need””
Families are the cornerstone of America’s social fabric. They are also the foundation for human development. Maslow’s hierarchy is a theory that people have a five-tier hierarchical set of needs: physiological needs, a need for safety, a need for love and belonging, a need for self-esteem, and a need for self-actualization. The family as a unit tends to create positive outcomes in almost all aspects of a child’s life because a family typically provides stability, love, comfort, support, protection, and a sense of belonging, along with so many other basic necessities that are essential to the overall development of a child. Although many children, especially children who are involved with the foster care system, emerge from what society considers “chaotic” families, those families still provide some sense of comfort and foundation for the child.
Because children in the foster care system live apart from their biological parents, there is often times a disruption in their development of attachment and sense of belonging to their biological family, which occurs while they are trying to form new relations with their caregivers in the foster care system. If a child is provided with a secure and nurturing environment, he or she is capable of making positive developments; however, if the child is unable to find that security and comfort in at least one of their adult caregivers, he or she may begin to seek out and form attachments to undesirable social influences, such as gangs.Continue reading “Youth within the Foster Care System Don’t Have “Families””
I. Introduction: Since the tough on crime culture played a large role in mass incarceration, we must elect Progressive District Attorneys that prioritize diversion and rehabilitation before incarceration whenever it is possible.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, District Attorneys’ offices have a wide degree of discretion throughout the stages of the criminal justice process. The decisions prosecutors make can impact whether a parent gets incarcerated, and ultimately whether a parent loses their parental rights in that process. The Vera Institute compiled an overview of seven critical decision points for prosecutors throughout the criminal justice process and how these decisions can affect an individual’s fate. Notably, the overview highlights how, even at the charging stage, if the prosecutor selects a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence, he has essentially already chosen the potential sentence at the time of charging, rather than the judge or jury doing so at the time of sentencing. If the prosecutor had chosen a lesser charge, this decision could increase the likelihood that a person is, for example, eligible for diversion programs or released pre-trial. Diversion programs, or pre-trial release, could likely help contribute to maintaining an otherwise healthy family unit and keep additional children from being placed in the foster care system.
By prioritizing programs that avoid incarceration and promoting, for example, rehabilitation, prosecutors can dramatically decrease the number of children who end up in foster care. District Attorneys’ offices, and the individual decisions prosecutors make, are highly influenced by their culture. A Chief District Attorney can change the entire culture of an office by, for example, promoting decisions and programs which would actually assist parents in overcoming their involvement in the justice system and allowing them to continue to be involved in their child’s life. Electing a more progressive District Attorney, who prioritizes programs that avoid incarceration, would benefit parents as a whole. Historically, District Attorneys’ offices have followed a tough on crime approach which rewarded a high rate of convictions, at all costs. This culture, in effect, has resulted in the high rates of incarceration we see in our nation today.Continue reading “Progressive District Attorneys Can Affect the Foster Care System by Changing the Tough on Crime Culture”
In the past 20 years, doctors and public healthcare professionals have uncovered a clear link between poor adult health and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are “stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance abuse disorders.” ACEs not only lead to early morbidity, but they also have been found to promote participation in maladaptive, “high-risk,” behaviors.
In the United States, adults who have experienced 6 or more ACEs during their childhood are 24.36 times more likely to attempt suicide than a person without ACEs. According to the 2017 article from the International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, not only are adults with high ACE scores likely to attempt suicide, but they are also 3.73 times more likely to use illegal drugs, 2.84 times more likely to engage in heavy alcohol use, and 2.73 times more likely to suffer from depression.
Unfortunately, adults who suffer from drug addictions and alcohol abuse are not less likely to have children than their peers. Instead, they become families with adult caregivers who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions. At a certain point, when the substance abuse is unmanageable, law enforcement and Child Protective Services will intervene in the best interest of the child. If the parent is unable to cure their addiction, their child will join nearly 52,000 other youth who are in California’s Foster Care System.Continue reading “Unpacking Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Impact on Foster Care Youth”
I. Introduction: Since most District Attorneys are elected, we must elect District Attorneys who embrace criminal justice reform.
Criminal justice reformers have a new strategy: electing new District Attorneys in order to change the system from within. District Attorneys (“DA’s”) are commonly referred to as prosecutors, and prosecutors represent “the People” of the state in which they work. This means that in everything prosecutors do, with the power they wield, they must keep in mind what is best for the victims, defendants, and people of their state. While the decisions of an individual deputy district attorney, in deciding what is best for “the People,” can influence the foster care system on a micro-level, the election of a Chief District Attorney can influence the foster care system on a macro-level. This is why criminal justice reform advocates have recently begun to utilize a new strategy to advance their cause: voting out the old DA in favor of a new DA who embraces commonsense criminal justice reform.
When a child is placed in the foster care system, that child’s life and the life of that child’s parents are changed forever. The same thing goes for when a child, or a child’s parents, gets incarcerated. These traumatic events have immeasurable lifelong consequences. At every waystation in the criminal justice system, the lives of all those who are touched by the system become irreparably impacted. Given that prosecutors have outsized influence and power in the criminal justice process, it is evident that examining the role of prosecutors is critical to understanding how the foster care system can be improved. While admittedly a crass and inexact analogy, if one were interested in reforming the beef industry, an examination of the roles of cattle farmers would be important to analyze. Concomitantly, an analysis of those who wield power in the criminal justice system, and who serve as de facto feeders into that system, is important to understanding how reform of the system can be most effectively undertaken.
Children with incarcerated parents and children in foster care often overlap. In fact, 40% of children in foster care have been exposed to parental incarceration at some point in their lives. Children with parents who become entangled in the criminal justice system are far more likely to enter the foster care system. In fact, each year, 14,000 children whose parents are incarcerated are placed in the foster care system. The criminal justice system exacts an often-heavy toll on the accused, however, that toll does not just fall on the accused him- or herself. The children of the accused suffer collateral consequences as a result of a parent’s experience with the criminal justice system. Since, in the criminal justice system, prosecutors have arguably the most power and influence, analyzing prosecutors’ roles in the system is thus imperative to understanding how to improve the foster care system. One solution is electing more District Attorneys who embrace systemic reform.
Over the course of my posts, I will discuss the influence the Chief District Attorney has on his or her deputy district attorneys and how that is relevant to the foster care and juvenile justice systems as a whole.Continue reading “Changing the System From Within: How Electing a New District Attorney Can Improve the Foster Care System”
“Blood is thicker than water” – an age-old, celebrated motto emphasizing the idea that family should come before anyone and anything else. This mentality has been and continues to be especially popular amongst members of the adolescent community. However, in light of such, that prompts a question about kids in the foster care system who lack the traditional “family” that kids who aren’t in the system have: who’s their “family”?
My name is Sam Persaud and I am currently a third-year law student at Santa Clara University School of Law. Ever since I can remember, I’ve dreamed of becoming a prosecutor one day, so naturally I began working as a law clerk for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office the summer after my first year of law school. Since then, I’ve worked in several different units within the SFDA’s Office, including the Juvenile Division. There, I saw the collaborative and restorative nature of the justice system in its truest form. However, I also noticed that a vast number of the youth who ended up in the juvenile justice system were kids from the foster care system.
What I found particularly concerning was that many of these children had some sort of gang affiliation. This prompted me to ask whether gangs are offering kids something that the foster care system lacks? Or whether gangs are simply manipulating this “blood is thicker than water” ideology to lure kids into their criminal enterprises? To explain these questions, I will explore whether gangs act as a substitute family for kids who come from dysfunctional home situations. In other words, are gangs pseudo families for children who crave a sense of belonging, and do kids join gangs to counteract attachment deficits?
I will begin this process by first examining why “families” are so important to the positive development of youth, and what exactly “families” provide that makes young people feel a sense of fulfillment that in turn allows them to thrive. In this same post I will explain why most children involved in the foster care system lack what traditional families provide, and why that ultimately leads to gang affiliations.
I will then explore why is it that so many gangs have family references despite so many gang members coming from dysfunctional families? (For example, Nuestra Familia, Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerilla Family, and so on.) Is this a means of compensating for the absence of biological or nuclear family ties by replacing that with criminal, gang-related ties? Essentially, are gangs a substitute family who provide a sense of belonging for its young member?
I will then explore theories about how gangs may feel like the only “family” these children have, and how we may be able to fix this problem by making effective changes in the foster care system. In order to fix the problem, we must first understand it, so I am excited to explore this topic with you all!
Certain similarities exist between the children and youth in the foster care system and those in the criminal justice system. Often these youths are in unstable housing, have parents who might have substance abuse or domestic violence issues, have difficulties in finishing a high school education and behavioral issues while in school. In addition, they are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system as adults and not have as much stability as compared to the general population. This comparison is not to conflate the two populations, but to explore and analyze the different treatment between them. Foster youth receive certain benefits during their time in the system that are not afforded to children in the criminal justice system. My research would explore the differences in treatment between the two populations, why there is a difference, and hopefully generate some policy suggestions to create better outcomes and safer communities. My thought from the outset is if youth in the criminal justice system were given some of the benefits and/or services afforded to foster youth, they might have better outcomes than there are now. The benefits to this approach would hopefully be better experiences for youth growing up in turbulent environments, taxpayers wouldn’t have to spend as much on incarceration, and society as a whole would be safer and better to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
My name is Pedro Naveiras and I am a second-year law student at Santa Clara University. Prior to law school I worked in education and local government, but I went to law school knowing I wanted to be a prosecutor. I attended CSU Bakersfield studying Philosophy and Political Science. I worked for the Kern County District Attorney’s Office last summer and will be clerking at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office this summer. I look forward to learning more about the approaches and taking this knowledge to whatever District Attorney’s office I end up working at.
My name is Farouq Ghazzawi, but I prefer to be called Vince. I’m half Middle Eastern (Saudi Arabia & Egypt) and half Hispanic (Spain & Peru). I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for several years, after which I lived in London, England for a year, before finally moving to the United States when I was 8 years old. I grew up in Riverside, CA. I received my B.A. in Political Science and History from UC Davis, my M.A. in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and I’m here at Santa Clara Law to receive my J.D. in order to become a District Attorney. I have interned at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in both the Misdemeanor and Homicide Units, and this summer I will be interning at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. My goal is to be a prosecutor for a decade or so in the hopes of then running for elected office. I am committed to fighting for criminal justice reform and equality. Before coming to law school, I planned to work for the NSA as an Intelligence Analyst, but I declined their job offer in order to pursue my childhood dream of going to law school.
I signed up for this class because, as someone who aspires to become a prosecutor, I feel it is my duty to learn about the foster care and juvenile justice system. My hope is that with the knowledge I gain that I can make a positive difference when I have prosecutorial discretion. Additionally, I signed up for this class because I wanted to help be a part of something bigger than myself and work towards crafting legislation that can improve the foster care and juvenile justice systems. I’m a firm believer that our criminal justice system is unfair, especially for people of color. I also believe how a government spends its money is a reflection of who it thinks is important and worth saving, the more a government invests in its people the more that government values its people.
The theme of my research and writing will be “The Perils and Promises of Localism in Juvenile Justice.” In my exploration of this topic, I will be researching whether—and why—California should have local variations of juvenile justice. We have statewide statutes—why, then, is there not a state-wide system of monitoring and enforcement in California? Are there state-wide systems that we could use as models? And would it be more efficient to have a state-wide system instead of 58 different county systems? I will also explore how localism plays out in the criminal context, looking specifically at whether electing a new Chief District Attorney makes a difference for the office’s culture. I’ll assess the immense change Larry Krasner’s election as DA of Philadelphia has had on the office and by extension the office’s programs (with a special focus on Juvenile Justice issues). I will conclude by suggesting ways in which policymakers can assign local discretion to maximize good outcomes and minimize bad ones.
American foster care children are twice as likely to experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than veterans. Additionally, in the United States, adults who have experienced 6 or more ACEs during their childhood are 24.36 times more likely to attempt suicide than a person without ACEs. What is causing these children to experience such severe trauma? Recent studies have examined and categorized traumatic experiences in adolescence, calling them adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s). I would like to examine one particular ACE that many youth, in particular foster youth, share: parental incarceration.
For any child, it is traumatic to watch as law enforcement officers arrest and remove a parent from the home. However, law enforcement intervention is usually an indication of something much more alarming: criminal acts in the home. Those activities, like substance abuse and domestic violence that often become criminal, are additional ACE experiences that will effect the child. Foster youth experience parental incarceration at rates that surpass their peers. 40% of children in the foster care system have experienced the ACE of parental incarceration The Health Resources & Service Administration’s 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health ACE study found that within the subsection of youth who had experienced parental incarceration, 90.6% of those children had additional ACE scores. Knowing the detrimental effects of ACEs, we should take use the event of parental incarceration as an opportunity to talk with the child and the incarcerated parent and provide them with mental health services to treat the trauma they have experienced.
My name is Lucy Duran and I am a third-year student at Santa Clara University School of Law. My emphasis is in criminal prosecution. I have a passion for social justice and keeping my community safe. I have served as an intern at the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office and am a volunteer with the Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) Program in San Mateo County.
I believe that helping children attain resources to provide them with a safe, healthy foundation to flourish is of vital importance to the community. Before starting law school, I worked as a youth volunteer as a teacher. I have taught Sunday School children ages 3-7 for the last 6 years and worked as a Summer camp counselor for two years. Additionally, I served as a youth director for ages 3-18. I’ve had the privilege to work with youth from a variety of backgrounds and it is important to me to try and provide children with the tools to thrive as adults.