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Analysis of the Policy Rationale for the Texas Family Code Provision Allowing Courts To Compel Families of 'Delinquent' Youth To Participate in Therapy

NCJ Number
American Journal of Criminal Law Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: (July 1984) Pages: 169-188
J Millstone
Date Published
20 pages
A 1983 amendment to the Texas Family Code, which imposes involuntary therapy or counseling on households or families of delinquent children and status offenders, not only dangerously expands the authority of the court and the helping professions, but also diverts attention from more fundamental causes of delinquency.
The amendment had a noncontroversial, uneventful passage through the Texas Legislature with no recorded debate in either house. This history suggests that the legislature endorsed a treatment model of juvenile delinquency to justify State coercion of family therapy in juvenile cases. Proponents of the treatment model hold that the family is the most important socializing agent in a child's development of delinquent behavior; therefore, a delinquent child cannot be treated in isolation, but must be treated as an interdependent member of other social units, particularly the family. Parental participation, even if involuntary, is a critical imperative for adherents of this view. A case in Florida in which a parent refused to participate in her daughter's drug rehabilitation program demonstrates the need for express statutory authority. The Texas amendment, however, has problems in its broad definition of requiring any person in the household to submit to therapy and due process requirements. Finally, the treatment model endorsed in the legislation masks an alternative view, i.e., that it is deviants' environments and opportunities that need changing. These causes of delinquency cannot be addressed by counseling. The paper provides 119 footnotes.