Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Applications of Human Development to Truancy

In administering the Truancy Court Program (TCP), the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) applies one of its founding philosophies, the ecology of human development, to a real-world setting. The ecology of human development focuses on four different systems that effect affect a child’s daily routine, though children may not be aware of all of them. Those four systems are:

            • the microsystem: where children have contact with those influential in their lives (siblings,
               parents, teachers)
            • the mesosystem: relationships and connections between microsystems (home-school, etc.)
            • the exosystem: where children don’t participate but where significant decisions are made 
               affecting child and adult (choice of employment)
            • the macrosystem: the blueprints for organizing the institutional life of a society

TCP is uniquely suited for such a philosophy, as both its in- and out-of-school components factor into at least one of the above systems. The ecology of human development complements CFCC’s other underlying philosophy, therapeutic jurisprudence, to achieve goals across all system levels.

CFCC Student Fellows and staff join faculty from participating TCP schools to interact with program participants at the micro level. In weekly meetings, they assess problems occurring between the home-school relationship (mesosystem) that cause students to arrive late to school or not at all. These problems frequently involve a lack of communication at the micro level between parents, students, and teachers. A deficiency in communication can lead to misunderstandings between participants, which eventually blossoms into distrust of the school system at the meso level. Events at the micro level, therefore, greatly affect what goes on up the chain, which is why the TCP’s on-the-ground approach is so important. The home-school relationship is quintessential to what the TCP does, but there are other important relationships? Can you think of anything else?

The data-gathering component of the TCP can influence policymakers in the exosystem to make changes that attempt to eliminate the types of barriers to school attendance over which children have little control, such as transportation. Lack of site-specific transportation and reliance by children on general public transit systems is a good example of an early exosystem problem the TCP has encountered.  A parent’s choice of employment is another, more private example of an exosystem issue that can affect a child, as a parent who works far away from the school, or who also needs to take public transportation, may be unable to ensure that their child gets to school on time.

Finally, the macrosystem is the farthest we can pull back from the TCP table, and, thus, it is what the program has the least power to influence. Participation in the TCP by local judges and its public funding may relate to the program’s impact at this level. While the TCP has its greatest influence at the microsystem and mesosystem levels, it is at the macrosystem level where aggregate change begins to build up, and where, hopefully, the seeds of change planted at the other system levels will be nurtured by policymakers as well as by parents.

1 comment:

  1. This was an awesome post and draws on a great point, that we can only try to fix what we have control over and hope that those with greater power will see the need to uproot a system to fix the greater issue. I also totally agree with the idea that we all make the choices that we make, whether it is a policymaker or a parent, and everyone has a reason for deciding as they do. This breakdown of different "layers" or systems of human development really helped to put the Truancy Court program and therapeutic justice as a whole in perspective. While there are vast issues plaguing domestic life and the growth and development of the urban child, therapeutic justice aims to make do with what we have at our finger tips to better the lives of those being affected by those aforementioned decisions and their effects to manipulate positivity out of misfortune. I think I spent the entire semester learning that, and how to accept such. This comment comes with the power of hindsight, forcing me to piece together everything that I apparently learned and training I inadvertently received. If only one semester could impact the way my brain works so drastically, then the Truancy Court program must be impacting the minds and beliefs of students, parents and policymakers alike; and maybe, if we are really lucky, Baltimore City School System officials.


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