I Am a Victim Too: Applying the “Dual Victim-Offender” Framework to Reform New York’s Family Court System
New York has two separate judicial systems within Family Court: one for children who are considered “victims,” and another for those who are considered “offenders.” Children whose parents are suspected of abuse/neglect are placed in dependency court, under the guise that the state must step in as parens patriae to protect the well-being of the child. On the other hand, children who are accused of committing a crime are placed in delinquency court, with the purpose of protecting society and holding the youth accountable for their actions, while also attempting to rehabilitate them. However, often the same social and familial circumstances lead children to become involved in both systems, simultaneously yet separately becoming both the “victim” and the “offender” in the eyes of the court. Despite recent efforts to reform the family court system, New York fails to address the needs of youth who are involved in both delinquency and dependency court.
This paper first examines the separate theoretical and historical foundations of both New York dependency and delinquency court, including their differing rationales and treatment of children. Part II of this paper evaluates the correlation between victimization and offending, and the connection between dependent youth and their subsequent involvement in the delinquency system (“dual-status youth”). Finally, part III explores the “dual victim-offender” framework and offers this as a lens to be used by Family Court to inform their view of children and, in turn, reform the way children are treated in the system.