The social structure theory ties delinquent rates to socioeconomic conditions and cultural values (Siegel & Welsh, 2005). The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond strives to empower young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to succeed in life (Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond, 2011). The program focuses on the core areas of character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, the arts, sports, fitness, and recreation. Formed in 1945, the Boys and Girls Club base their programs on youth development strategies that build self-confidence and self-esteem, which fosters a sense of belonging, usefulness, influence, and competence. This program exemplifies the social structure theory by providing disadvantaged youths with a safe place away from violence, drugs, gang activity, and the physical perils of the streets.
Socialization is a key element of behavior and an important factor in the social process theory. The Head Start program is a national child development program for children from birth to age five, which provides services to promote academic, social, and emotional development for low-income families (Virginia Department of Social Services, 2008). The program is a federally funded program that promotes education, health, nutrition, dental, mental health, social services, and parental involvement opportunities. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons taught from Kindergarten through 12th grade (D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse Resistance Education, 1996). The D.A.R.E. program also teaches children the skills needed to recognize and resist the pressures that may cause them to experiment with drugs or become involved in gang or violent activities.
D.A.R.E. is a form of community policing which helps to open the lines of communication between law enforcement, students, school officials, and parents including and beyond drug-related topics. Social conflict theorists view the law and the justice system as vehicles for controlling the have-not members of society (Siegel & Welsh, 2005). The Federal Youth Court Program promotes the activities of youth courts, which offer communities a program in which youth are judged by their peers for minor delinquency, status offenses, and problem behaviors (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2011). The purpose of youth court is to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions, educate youth about the judicial and legal systems, empower youth to be active in their communities, and encourage positive behavior.
Youth courts also contribute to a sense of community involvement and social solidarity (National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 2010). In youth courts, juveniles are judged by a group of their peers rather than a juvenile justice judge. Youth courts also teach students about the legal system and the principles and values on which it is based. As with most peer education programs, youth courts benefit the young volunteers who serve as judges and staff, including the defendants who often return to court as volunteers. Studies reveal that both respondents and volunteers in youth courts improve their attitudes toward authority and knowledge of the justice system (National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 2010).
Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond. (2011). Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond. Retrieved from http://www.bgcmr.org/index.asp D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse Resistance Education. (1996). D.A.R.E.: Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Retrieved from http://www.dare.com/home/default.asp National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention. (2010). Youth Courts. Retrieved from http://www.promoteprevent.org/publications/prevention-briefs/youth-courts Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2011). Federal Youth Court Program. Retrieved from http://www.ojjdp.gov/programs/ProgSummary.asp Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2005). Juvenile Delinquency: The Core. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Virginia Department of Social Services. (2008-2012). Head Start. Retrieved from http://www.dss.state.va.us/family/cc/headstart.html