If you are one who believes that the State’s children are its most precious possession, your heart must thrill and your mind obtain a new satisfaction by reason of the plans that are now on foot in our State to carry physical health, mental training, and moral discipline to every child within our borders.
If you are one that does not see the great vision of child welfare now breaking upon the world, you should get on your knees and ask God to set you right on what His Son meant when He said, “Summer little children to come unto me.”
No longer is a wayward, neglected or undisciplined child defined as a criminal by the laws of North Carolina.
By act of the great Legislature of 1919 there is now a juvenile court in every county in the State and a county superintendent of public welfare. The clerk of the Superior Court is ex officio judge of the juvenile court and the county superintendent of public welfare is the ex officio probation officer of the court. This is the machinery which the State has provided for caring for all children who are without natural guardianship.
The court is charged with the duty of seeing that opportunity for physical health, moral discipline, and mental training is secured for such children. The court has all necessary power to do what it thinks best for the child.
The court has jurisdiction over every child under 16 years
(a) Who is delinquent or who violates any municipal or State law or ordinance or who is truant, unruly, wayward, or misdirected, or who is disobedient to parents or beyond their control, or who is in danger of becoming so; or
(b) Who is neglected or who engages in any occupation, calling, or exhibition, or is found in any place where a child is forbidden by law to be and for permitting which an adult may be punished by law, or who is in such condition or surroundings or is under such improper or insufficient guardianship or control as to endanger the morals, health or general welfare of such child; or
(c) Who is dependent upon public support or who is destitute, homeless or abandoned, or whose custody is subject to controversy.
The juvenile court principle is now being applied all over the United States and in foreign countries. It is one of the great forward steps of the age, and the most important advance in court methods in many years. It can be no more checked that the public school. It is here to stay and be improved.
The juvenile court can’t save every child; but it has been proven that when the system is properly carried out it will save 75 per cent of them. That is more than worth the money.
It costs the taxpayer 10 times more to capture, try, punish, and maintain an adult criminal than it does to save a juvenile delinquent.
The court stands in the relation of parent to such children, and will discipline, guide and control them through probation just as a wise father would.
The court may punish a child if it is necessary, but wayward children are more in need of wise guidance and just discipline and friendly help than of punishment.
The judge is the kind and wise father, the probation officer is the big brother of the boy who is about to be lost. Both are studying ways and means to make a man of him.
Do you believe in saving boys and girls whose parents let them go astray, or who have no parents?
If you are a Christian, you certainly ought to pray for and encourage this work, for it is Christ’s work.
If you are a good citizen you ought to help it, for you believe in having good citizens and not bad ones.
If you are a taxpayer you ought to stand by this work, because it is cheaper to save a boy than to maintain a lifelong lawbreakers.
If you are a mother you ought to help, because every wayward child is a burden to some mother-heart.
If you are a man you ought to help, because this is a practical application of the brotherhood of man.
The juvenile court is really a part of the educational system. It carries opportunity to children who otherwise would not have it.
The juvenile court does not ask what can be done to a child, but what can be done for him—to make a man or woman instead of a human wreck.