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Key to fixing juvenile problems is parental responsibility
On Sept. 30, 2012, I retired after more than 42 years as the part-time Juvenile Judge of Lowndes County. During my tenure, the legislature never tried to minimize the cause of the growing juvenile problems. The ongoing fight over current posed legislation is no different. The lawmakers of Georgia have never understood that the most effective way to decrease juvenile problems is to increase parental responsibility.
During my time on the bench, no representative, senator or executive office holder ever visited the court to see what problems existed nor to inquire as to what they could do to help eliminate them. Of course, I received many phone calls from elected officials trying to get me to do favors for the children of certain constituents, but at no time did any of them ever inquire of the court as to why the problems were increasing or what they, as elected officials, could do to help.
The current legislation proposals are pure folly and a waste of the taxpayers' money. These proposals do not focus on the cause of the problems, only the results. In dealing with these results, this proposed legislation places no responsibility on parents. It only attempts to decrease state government involvement and responsibility and place full responsibility on the communities.
Of all the legislators involved in this current legislation, I would venture a guess that not one of them has ever sat through a session or a day of juvenile court to witness the impossible situation that each and every Juvenile Judge in this state faces in attempting to correct problems with the tools they are given to work with.
The only input to changing the legislation seems to come from reports by reform groups, volunteers, prosecuting attorneys or child advocacy groups. Once again, I have never seen any member of any of these groups participating within the Juvenile Court. Their surveys and opinions are not an appropriate substitute for direct involvement by the legislators who are charged with the responsibilities of passing good laws.
It only seems to make good sense that all new legislation should be tabled and no action taken until each and every elected legislator can go back to his or her home county and spend at least one day with a Juvenile Judge, both in and out of court. By doing so, each could get a true picture of the problems and what needs to be done to minimize those problems.
I think after so doing, each of them would agree that minimizing and eliminating teenage pregnancies, truancy and inappropriate conduct in schools by placing increased responsibility on parents is the appropriately correct and less expensive method of decreasing the juvenile problems. To do otherwise is simply wasting the taxpayers' money.
O. Wayne Ellerbee, Valdosta