Thoughts About Juvenile Law in WA State

This is a quandary in Washington state and is wrapped up in state constitutional protections, law, and what we consider being in the best interest of the state and it is something I’m working with and am perplexed at this moment in time. It makes for great thought, I think…

In Washington state, public records are open constitutionally. This includes youth records. Technically including kids arrested, gone through dependency hearings, etc. (abused kids could find their records plastered all over). The way it works right now is that youth can work to seal their records over time as long as they accomplish a checklist. This is a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped because data/electronics means the records are out there. PLUS, Washington state sells the youth records to background check firms while they are still minors.

There is support in both houses to make youth records confidential. Confidentiality is better than sealing because it shuts the door before the horse is out. Sealing shuts the door afterwards.

But in order to make youth records confidential, the IT system has to be updated to accommodate some change in the record in the database that doesn’t make sense to me because making another field in a database really isn’t that hard. BUT whatever, the fiscal note is that it would take $500,000 do make an IT adjustment to attach to the confidential record bill that is currently in play. This would also, according to the IT people, stop the current and planned upgrade in its tracks and put all the IT people onto this problem and not on the upgrade.

There is thoughts of tweaking the bill to do the confidentiality thing but to implement in 5 years.

All in all, this is making me nuts. It seems so simple. (1) Don’t sell youth records. (2) Let’s just treat kids like kids and make their records confidential.

The upshot is that to make the lives and opportunities of youth that are in the most marginalized group (impoverished, undereducated, incarcerated), we could simply make their records confidential so it is easier for them to get a job and to get into college.

The interesting points, now that you’ve slogged through my current issue (and you thought be a chaplain was all spiritual God stuff!):

Where do we draw the line of competing interests such as state/child? And where does it stop being a “state” interest (open records) and it is being transformed into a “corporate” interest (credit bureaus, rental agencies, and newspapers are buying the records)? Is there a difference between state interests and corporate interests? Do you have an assumption that youth’s records are protected?

Where should the line be drawn?

Please Excuse Davontaye, He Suffers From Povertenza

Recently, a case came up about “affluenza” where a youth was released because he was SO affluent and sheltered that he could not “make proper decisions.” That is incredibly sad. This article shines a light on the ridiculousness of that defense.

Our Legaci with J.A.M. Aiwuyor


Dear Judge,

I know that Davontaye’s actions caused the deaths of four people. But please don’t give him life in prison. He suffers from Povertenza. You may not know about this condition but Povertenza is an illness that people from impoverished socio-economic backgrounds have.

Due to the inability to access quality education and employment, Davontaye’s development has been stifled. This leads to poor decision making and I would further argue that since his neighborhood sees so much death and destruction, that he may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in addition to Povertenza.

Judge, it is clear that Davontaye can not be held responsible for his actions. He needs rehabilitation, not prison. Prison would only worsen his mental condition. 



This defense obviously doesn’t work for black  and poor youth. Yet, news outlets are spiraling about 16 year-old  Ethan Couch who caused the deaths of 4 people by…

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Long Term Juvenile Incarceration

Have you seen OJJDP’s study on long term incarceration of juveniles?

Just a few key points:

Finding #1: Longer stays in juvenile facilities do not reduce reoffending; institutional placement raised offending levels in even those with the lowest level of offending.

Finding #2: Adolescents who have committed serious offenses are not necessarily on track for adult criminal careers.

Finding #3: Substance use is a major factor in continued criminal activity by serious adolescent offenders.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

At a recent meeting, we discussed the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES). You can get more information about it here.

Briefly, children who experience childhood trauma are increasingly at risk for:

The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a count of the total number of ACE respondents reported. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the ACE score increases, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy

Additionally, each trauma interrupts the development of the child into a fully functioning adult. Traumas include abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. For more info on that go here.

Let’s remember that the youth we encounter have a trauma problem, not a crime problem.



By ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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The parent/caregiver just needs to contact us to schedule pick-up, show up and sign a receipt. As long as this partnership lasts, the families in need will be able to receive 45 diapers per child per month.


Shirley Smith, MSW

Program Coordinator

Atlantic Street Family Center

4730 32nd Ave S

(206) 723-1301   ext 3980