Since 1899, the year in which the state of Illinois established a separate statutory framework for addressing the problems of children before the courts, the juvenile justice system has been struggling to establish its identity in the jurisprudence of the United States. The juvenile court laws of this country, including those of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have historically been based on the doctrine of "parens patriae", which is formally defined as the "sovereign power of guardianship over persons under disability."' According to this doctrine, the state, through the court system, can be trusted to fulfill its obligation with respect to children with care and solicitude and without any insistence upon a granting of constitutional rights to the children who come into contact with the system. In return for the special benefits accorded the child by the state in the juvenile court, the child gives up certain constitutional protections. The United States Supreme Court recognized during the late 1960's and the early 1970's that the courts and the states had not kept up their end of the bargain made on behalf of children. The constitutional rights of children were redefined and restored in a series of decisions which has formed the basis of modern juvenile court reform.
Lelia B. Hopper & Frank M. Slayton,
The Revision of Virginia's Juvenile Court Law,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol13/iss4/7