naomi’s Story

Naomi was born in a poor, urban neighborhood. as her parents struggled with substance abuse, poverty, and unemployment, Naomi suffered both physical and sexual abuse before being placed in foster care at the age of 5. By the age of 9, Naomi was shoplifting, skipping school, and violating curfew. at age 13, she physically assaulted her foster mother and entered the juvenile justice system with charges of disorderly conduct and being a habitual delinquent. Her foster home placement was terminated, and Naomi was sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and six cousins. it wasn’t long before her relatives began to have additional concerns that Naomi was exhibiting sexualized behavior, “sneaking around” with her 17-year-old boyfriend, staying out all night, and being disrespectful. They felt she was out of control.

Naomi had been ordered by the juvenile court to cooper- ate with her family’s household rules, attend school on a regu- lar basis, have no further law violations, complete 25 hours of community service, and pay restitution for the shoplifting, but she refused to cooperate with any of the programs or services, continuing to come and go as she pleased. The family was receiving support from Naomi’s intensive supervision program counselor, as well as a family therapist, but during the sec- ond month of placement with her relatives, at the age of 14, Naomi disclosed that she was pregnant and planning to keep her baby. The program counselor and other professionals in- volved in Naomi’s case had to work with her and her family to reevaluate their plan.

Naomi was enrolled in a school specifically designed to support teens who are pregnant or already parenting, where in addition to her academic studies to complete high school, she would receive help from parenting classes, independent living courses, and relationship counseling. Naomi also received ser- vices from a neighborhood intervention program that focused on providing structure and accountability for her through coun- selors and daily group meetings to encourage her. Even with these additional supports and interventions, Naomi continued

to get involved in some minor status offenses: She skipped school, didn’t come home on time, and would not follow household rules. Nonetheless, she had no involvement with more serious delinquent activities.

Naomi continued to live with her aunt and uncle, and did eventually complete her community service and restitution payment. after the baby was born Naomi began to understand the consequences of her actions. With continued services and support from her counselors, she started following the rules and expectations of her family. Upon taking responsibility to find the necessary medical and child care for her daughter, Naomi found employment—a position in retail—and started planning for her future. Despite being at high risk for dropping out of school, Naomi completed her high school education and had a positive view of her future. The team of involved professionals continued to provide the needed supports and encouraged Naomi to make good decisions for both herself and her baby. She still struggles at times, but has remained free of further law violations.

  1. Naomi received a number of interventions to address her issues, but it still took a long time for her to reduce her delinquent behavior. How long should the juvenile justice system give a young person to change? How many chances should a teen get? Do you think she would have likely been removed from her aunt and uncle’s home, if her criminal behavior had continued?
  2. As Naomi grew older, she was less involved in criminal activity. Discuss the reasons for the “aging-out” process and apply them to the case example.
  3. What childhood risk factors did Naomi have regarding the possibility of becoming a persistent delinquent? How was this avoided? What can be done to reduce chronic offending among at-risk youth? (Siegel & Welch, 2018)
  4. In this case, did the enforcement of status offenses impact her being labeled and possibly creating a stigma (self-fulfilling prophecy)?  What status offenses do you think would have the greatest impact on a juvenile being labeled a chronic offender?

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