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BATON ROUGE -- Parents of delinquent children should be held responsible for their offspring's actions and have to perform community service work when ordered by a judge, the House said today.
Lawmakers voted 76-22 for House Bill 383 by Rep. Walker Hines, D-New Orleans, sending it to the Senate for debate.
Hines said the bill is designed to give judges the option of ordering parents to perform community service work if their kids are picked up for skipping school, vandalizing property or violating curfews.
"This does not affect the sentence or punishment given the child," Hines said. "This is (for) the worst, most egregious parents. It will not impact a parent's ability to work. ... We want to make sure parents are more engaged in their children's lives.
"Hopefully, this will keep parents from letting their kids run the streets and break the law."
Hines said that judges now have the authority to order a parent and a delinquent child to counseling and his bill gives the judge another option. If a parent is not involved in the child's life, the bill says a guardian or caretaker could be held responsible and sentenced to the community service work.
Although the bill does not provide a minimum or maximum for community service for a parent or guardian, Hines said that he would not expect a judge to order a parent to more than three to five hours of work.
Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, said that the bill would take a parent away from a paying job to do the community service, hurting the income of a household.
"This takes the parent away from the family process," Rep. Greg Cromer, R-Slidell, said. "This is not going to be beneficial to the child. ... Do you really think this is needed instead of pushing family counseling?
Hines said that the bill is an option to family counseling, especially if the parent or guardian does not take more responsibility after those sessions.
"It is up to the discretion of the judge," Hines said.
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