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When the child and the state confront each other in the juvenile justice system, no amount of benevolent intentions, studied informality, or euphemistic terminology should be allowed to obscure the fact that they are, in fact, adversaries. What is at stake in juvenile delinquency proceedings is the child's right to liberty and his right to continue in the custody of his parents against the state's power to control crime and enforce morality.

Despite this fact, the juvenile justice system created by legislation in virtually every state was empowered to disregard customary procedures for protecting the accused from the power of the state. It was allowed to employ instead a non-adversary, rehabilitative, parental approach in "treating" children, both those charged with special juvenile offenses (e.g., incorrigibility, truancy) and those charged with offenses criminal for adults.

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