I don't get to talk to families on their best days. Rather, I mostly talk to people when they are in the midst of crisis - a crisis having arisen because their child has been arrested or is somewhere on the short road to being tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as an adult even though they are still a child. I feel inadequate and find myself lacking answers. I feel scared for them knowing that they are powerless and the full range of consequences of these practices will not reach them until years down the road. Truly, it is the families and the children that will carry years of devastating burdens far longer than I.
As an organizer, I want to see the reform that will end these harmful practices, but as a family organizer, I want to provide answers to folks who have a right to understand every aspect of what is happening to their children in these circumstances. I keep wondering whose job it is to give families the information they need during this difficult time.
Many families seek legal advice from the attorneys that represent their children. Providing this advice, however, can be difficult for the attorneys because they represent the child, not the family. While families can and should take an active role in the defense of their child and communicate relevant information to the attorney, such as if the child has been in trouble before or was a good student, this still ultimately means that the care and concern of the child falls back to the family. Yet, the family often lacks the information necessary to help make decisions in the best interest of their child. How are families to make decisions without adequate information?