Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Juvenile Courts
Juvenile Courts

Juvenile Courts

Juvenile Court Committee flier, n.d.
Juvenile courts revolutionized the treatment of dependent, neglected, and delinquent children. The world's first juvenile court, located in Cook County, opened in July 1899, and served as the model for this new social welfare approach that emphasized individualized treatment of cases instead of rigid adherence to due process, and probation over incarceration. The juvenile court also substituted the ideal of rehabilitation for retribution.

Located across the street from Hull House, Chicago's juvenile court symbolized the optimism of its famous neighbors and supporters, especially Jane Addams and Julia Lathrop. Within a generation, juvenile courts based on the Chicago model had been established in all the states except Maine and Wyoming, and in more than 20 foreign countries. By the end of the twentieth century, however, the initial faith in juvenile courts to reform wayward children had faded. Across the nation, including in Illinois, juvenile courts became increasingly indistinguishable from criminal courts.

Gittens, Joan. Poor Relations: The Children of the State in Illinois, 1818–1990. 1994.
Platt, Anthony. The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency. 2d ed. 1977.
Tanenhaus, David S. Juvenile Justice in the Making. 2004.