AN ACT providing for a Juvenile Court for the City of Wilmington and Defining its Powers with reference to the Care, Treatment and Control of Delinquent, Incorrigible and Dependent Children.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met, (two-thirds of all the members elected to each branch of the General Assembly concurring therein):
Section 1. There shall be created a special Court for the City of Wilmington, known as the Juvenile Court, which shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction in all cases in the City of Wilmington, relating to children, including juvenile delinquents, truants, neglected, incorrigible and dependent children and all other cases where the custody or legal punishment of children is in question, but said Court shall not have probate jurisdiction.
Section 2. This Act shall apply only to male children seventeen years of age or under and to female children eighteen years of age or under, who are not at the time of the passage of this Act, inmates of a State institution incorporated under the Laws of the State of Delaware for the care and correction of children, or of any reform school or institution for juvenile offenders.
Section 3. The words "delinquent child" shall include any male child seventeen years of age or under and any female child eighteen years of age or under, who violates any law of this State or who labors when he belongs to any class excluded from laboring in any gainful occupation by the Child Labor Law of this State, or who is incorrigible; or who knowingly associates with thieves, vicious or immoral persons; or who, without just cause or without the consent of its parents or custodian, absents itself from its home or place of abode, or who is growing up in idleness or crime; or who, knowingly, visits or enters a house of ill-repute; or who, knowingly patronizes or visits any policy shop or place where any gaming device is or shall be operated; or who patronizes or visits any saloon or dram shop where intoxicating liquors are sold; or who patronizes or visits any pool room or bucket shop; or who wanders about the streets in the night time without being on lawful business or occupation; or who habitually wanders about any railroad yards; or who smokes or uses any cigarettes of any kind whatsoever;
or who habitually uses vile, obscene, vulgar, profane or indecent language or is guilty of immoral or disorderly conduct in any public place or highway or about any school house; or who is persistently truant from school.
Any child committing any of the acts herein-above mentioned shall be deemed a juvenile delinquent person, and shall be proceeded against as such in the manner hereinafter provided. A deposition of any child under this Act, or any evidence given in such case shall not, in any civil, criminal or other cause of proceeding whatever in any court, be lawful or proper evidence against such child for any purpose whatever, except in subsequent cases against the same child under this Act. The word "child" or "children" may mean one or more children, or the word "parent" or "parents" may mean one or both parents, when consistent with the intent of this Act.
For the purpose of this Act the word "dependent child" or "neglected child" shall mean any male child seventeen years of age or under, or any female child eighteen years of age or under, that is found begging, receiving or gathering alms (whether actually begging or under the pretext of selling or offering for sale anything) or being in any street, road or public place for the purpose of begging, gathering, or receiving alms; or that is found wandering and not having any home or any settled place of abode or proper guardianship or visible means of subsistence; or that is found destitute, or whose home, by reason of neglect, cruelty or depravity on the part of its parents, guardian or other person in whose care it may be, is an unfit place for such child.
Section 4. The Judge of the said Court shall be known as the Judge of the Juvenile Court, and shall be appointed by the Governor of the State of Delaware, without any regard for his political affiliations and his sole qualification shall be his fitness to be a juvenile judge. The said Judge shall hold office for a term of four years or until his successor is appointed but may be reappointed for one or more terms. The said Judge shall serve without compensation.
Section 5. A room shall be provided for the use of said Juvenile Court and shall be known as the Juvenile Court Room. The jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court shall extend to all cases under this Act within the corporate limits of the City of Wilmington. A special record book or books shall be kept by the Court for all cases coming within the provisions of this Act, to be known as "The Juvenile Court Record;" and the docket or calendar of the Court, upon which shall appear the case or cases, shall be known as "The Juvenile Court Docket." The clerk of the Juvenile Court shall, at the November Term of the Court of General Sessions, submit to the Court of General Sessions a report in writing to be furnished by the Levy Court of the County, showing the number and disposition of delinquent, dependent or neglected children brought before such Court together with such other useful information regarding such cases, and the parentage of such children as may reasonably be obtained at the trial thereof, provided, that the *same [*So enrolled.] or identity of any such child or parent shall not be disclosed.
Section 6. The Clerk of the Peace for New Castle County, shall be the Clerk of the Juvenile Court and shall keep and have charge of all the dockets, records and proceedings thereof; shall issue all subpoenas for witnesses and all other persons, required to attend the Court within the provisions of this Act.
Section 7. The Judge of the Juvenile Court shall have authority to appoint or designate one or more discreet persons, man or woman, of good moral character, to serve as Probation Officers during the pleasure of the Court. Said Probation Officers shall receive no compensation for their services.
The judges of the Superior Court shall appoint upon the recommendation of the said judge of the Juvenile Court, provided they consider the recommendation a proper one, one Probation Officer who shall be designated as Chief Probation Officer and who shall receive a salary of One Thousand Dollars per annum, payable monthly, and necessary expenses may be allowed such officer to an amount not exceeding two hundred dollars per annum, in the discretion of the Juvenile Judge. Said salary and expenses shall be paid, one half by the Levy Court of New Castle County and one half by the Treasurer of the City of Wilmington upon the order of the Judge of the Juvenile Court. All volunteer Probation Officers shall be directly under the control of the Chief Probation Officer, and said Chief Probation Officer, shall possess all the power and authority of the Sheriff to make arrests, and authority to go into the home of any delinquent child.
When any child is to be brought before the Court, it shall be the duty of a Probation Officer to make investigation of such case and to be present in Court to represent the interests of the child when the case is heard, to furnish to the Court such information and assistance as the Court or Judge may require, and to take charge of any child before and after the trial, as may be directed by the Court.
Section 8. Any reputable resident of the City of Wilmington, having knowledge of a child within said City who appears to be either neglected or dependent or delinquent may file with the Clerk of the Juvenile Court or with the Judge of the said Court a petition in writing, setting forth the facts, verified by affidavit. The petition shall set forth the name and resident of each parent, if known; and, if both are dead, or their residence unknown, then the name and residence of the legal guardian, if known, or, if not known, then the name and residence of some near relative, if there be one, and his residence, if known. It shall be sufficient that the affidavit is upon information and belief.
Upon the filing of the petition, a summons shall issue requiring the person having custody or control of the child, or with whom the child may be, to appear with the child at a place and time stated in the summons, which time shall be not less than twenty-four hours after service. The parents of the child, if living, arid their residence, if known to the petitioner, or its legal guardian, if there be one, and his or her residence, if known to the petitioner, or if there be neither parent or guardian, or if his or her residence is not known, then some near relative, if his or her residence is known to the petitioner, shall be notified of the proceedings, and in any case the Judge may appoint some suitable person to act in behalf of the child. Summons and notice may be served by the Sheriff, County Constable, or any duly appointed Probation Officer, either by reading the same to the person or persons to be served, or by delivering a copy thereof to the person or persons, or by leaving a copy thereof at his or her usual place of abode, if stated in the petition or known, with some person of his family of the age of twelve years or upward, and informing such person of the contents thereof. The return of such summons and notice with the endorsement of service by the Sheriff, County Constable, or Probation Officer, in accordance herewith, shall be sufficient proof thereof. If the person summoned as herein provided, shall fail, without reasonable cause, to appear and abide the order of the Court, or to bring the child, he may be proceeded against as in case of contempt of Court. In case the summons cannot be served, or the party fails to obey the same, and in any case where it shall be made to appear to the Court that such summons will be ineffectual, a warrant may issue on the order of the Court, either against the parent or guardian or the person having the custody of the child, or with whom the child may be or against the child itself, or both. On return of the summons, or other process, or on the appearance of the child with or without summons or other process, in person, before the Court, and on return of the service of the * [So enrolled.] (of the) notice, if there be any person notified, or upon the personal appearance or written consent of the person or persons, if any be notified, or as soon thereafter as may be, the Court shall proceed to hear and dispose of the case in an informal manner, and all hearings shall, so far as the same may be lawfully done, be had in chambers to the exclusion of the general public.
Until the first hearing of the case by the Court, the Chief Probation Officer may parole the child upon its own recognizance, or upon recognizance of its parents or the person having the custody of the child, to appear before the Court at such time as may be therein fixed, or the Probation Officer may cause the child to be placed with some person or in some State institution for the care and correction of children selected by the Juvenile Judge to be safely kept until the date set for appearance before the Court; or if the offence with which the child is charged be either a felony or a misdemeanor, the child may be detained pending a hearing in any manner ordered by the Juvenile Judge; provided, however, that no child, under fourteen years of age shall, under any circumstances, be incarcerated in any County jail or police station. Any officer or person who knowingly violates this provision of this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, on conviction, fined in a sum not to exceed one hundred ($100.00) dollars.
Section 9. When any child, within the provisions of this Act, is arrested with or without warrant, it shall not be taken before a Justice of the Peace or before a Police Magistrate, or Municipal Judge, but it shall be taken directly before the Juvenile Court, which Court shall, in such case, proceed to hear and dispose of the case provided, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to deprive such Justice of the Peace or such Police Magistrate or Municipal Judge or Court of Oyer and Terminer, of jurisdiction such as now exists in cases where the child is held upon the charge of having committed a capital felony.
Any child proceeded against, as in this Act provided shall have the right, now given to any person, to give bond or other security for its appearance at the trial.
Section 10. In any case of a delinquent child's coming under the provisions of this Act, the Court may continue the hearing from time to time and may commit the child to the care of a Probation Officer, and may allow said child to remain in its own home, subject to the visitation of the Probation Officer as often as may be required, and subject to be returned to the Court for further proceedings whenever such action may appear necessary; or the Court may cause the child to be placed in a suitable family home, subject to the friendly supervision of the Probation Officer and the further order of the Court; or it may authorize the child to be boarded out in some suitable family home, in case provision is made by voluntary contribution or otherwise for the payment of the board of such child, until suitable provisions be made for the child in a home without such payment; or the Court may commit such male child to the Ferris Reform School or such female child to the Delaware Industrial School for Girls; or the Court may commit the child to any institution within the County, incorporated under the Laws of the State, that may care for children, or which may be provided by the State or County or Municipality, suitable for the care of such children, or to any association or religious institution of the child's religious faith or the religious faith of its parents which may now or hereafter be established for the care of boys and girls. In no case shall a child proceeded against, under the provisions of this Act, be committed beyond the age of twenty-one.
A child committed to any such Institution shall be subject to the control of the Board of Managers, and the said Board shall have power, with the approval of the Juvenile Court, to parole such child on such conditions as the Board of Managers may prescribe; and the Court may on the recommendation of the Board or on its own motion discharge such child from custody, whenever in the judgment of the Court, his or her reformation is complete; or the Court may commit the child to the care and custody of some association that will receive it, embracing in its objects the care of neglected or dependent or delinquent children.
Any school, association or institution of this State to which a child is committed by the Court or any person or institution boarding and caring for a child under order of the Court pending hearing shall be entitled to receive for such services the sum of forty cents per day for each and every day, the said sum to be paid by the Levy Court of New Castle County. The juvenile Judge may have power to order the parent or guardian or anyone having the care or custody of the child to pay the said forty cents per day due as board and if said person without reasonable cause refuses to pay the board of said child so ordered by the Court, then he or she may be proceeded against as in a case of contempt of Court.
Section 11. When any child shall be found to be dependent or neglected, within the meaning of this Act, the Court may make an order committing the child, for such time during its minority as the Court may deem fit, to the care of some reputable citizen of good moral character, or to the care of some association, society or corporation willing to receive it. The Court may thereafter set aside, change or modify such order.
Section 12. The Judge of the Juvenile Court may appoint a Board of reputable inhabitants, who will serve without compensation, to constitute a Board of Visitation, whose duty it shall be to visit, so often as once a year, all institutions, societies and associations receiving children under this Act. Said visits shall be made by not less than two of the members of the Board, who shall go together and make a joint report; the said Board of visitors shall report to the Court, from time to time, the condition of the children received by, or in charge of, the associations and institutions, and shall make an annual report to the Judges of the Superior Court. All children placed in families shall be visited at least twice a year by the Probation Officer or by someone appointed by the Juvenile Judge and such person shall report back to the Juvenile Judge.
Section 13. In any case where the Court shall find a child neglected, dependent or delinquent, it may, in the same or subsequent proceedings, upon the due summons of the parents of said child, or either of them, or upon their voluntary appearance, proceed to inquire into the ability of such parents or parent to support the child or contribute to its support; and if the Court shall find such persons or parent able to support the child or to contribute thereto, the Court may enter such order or decree as shall be according to equity in the premises, and may enforce the same in any way in which the Court of Equity may enforce its order or decree.
Section 14. In all proceedings before the Juvenile Court, there may be allowed for the service of process or the attendance of witnesses a reasonable fee not exceeding what is allowable for like services or attendance in proceedings before a Justice of the Peace, and the Judge of the Juvenile Court may make such order upon the treasurer of the City of Wilmington for the payment thereof as he shall consider just, and he shall enforce, obedience by attachment. Concerning costs of petitions, motions, rules, and other matters not especially provided for, the Court shall make such order in each case as it shall deem proper, and in all cases, the Judge of the Juvenile Court may order that the costs shall be paid by the parents of a child appearing before it under the provisions of this Act, or by the City of Wilmington, as the Judge shall deem best.
Section 15. This Act shall be liberally construed, to the end that its purpose may be carried out, to wit, that the care, custody and discipline of a child shall approximate as nearly as may be that which should be given by its parents, and in all cases where it can be properly done, the child shall be placed in an approved family home, with people of the same religious belief if this is reasonably possible, and shall become a member of the family by legal adoption or otherwise.
Section 10. All Acts or Laws inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed.
Approved April 4, A. D. 1911.