There are a number of different resources available to minors and their families when dealing with the multitude of problems that affect juveniles. Many state and local agencies provide outreach programs aimed at educating and providing services to those in need. This includes parenting classes, mental health services, and crime prevention. Many community organizations and volunteer groups dedicate time and resources to working with at-risk youth and helping children who may face dangerous or threatening situations. Unfortunately, budget cuts have negatively impacted the number of community resources available to at-risk youth in certain areas and many cannot qualify for programming or help unless they have already gone through the juvenile court system.
Many of the resources available to combat juvenile offenders are allocated through a court order. Some of the most productive and fruitful resources available are parenting skills classes. These parenting skills classes are done in conjunction with a sentence that is given to a juvenile offender. Often, the court will order a parent to attend a number of parenting class sessions within a specific time period to ensure that progress is being made. These classes are often taught by probation officers who invite various guest speakers to address certain pressing topics which include: drug use, sexual abuse, and mental health.
Another critical area that is often overlooked for juveniles is their mental health needs. Too often juveniles enter the juvenile court system which is not prepared to assist their mental health needs. Approximately 70 percent of the over 2 million juveniles that find themselves arrested in a given year have a mental health problem. Roughly 25 percent of those juveniles suffer from a mental health condition that is so severe that they will never be able to become self-sufficient adults. In addition to those severe disorders, a large number of juveniles suffer from other mental disorders which include: substance abuse disorders, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, irritable mood syndrome, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Due to cutbacks in government funding, overcrowding, and the large number of mentally ill juveniles, many go without being properly diagnosed or properly treated while detained. This lack of adequate treatment has led to negative results which include suicides, assaults on other juveniles, and other traumatic consequences. Should a juvenile who suffers from mental illness be thrown into the juvenile court system it is imperative that they are represented by an experienced juvenile defense attorney to ensure that the minor’s health and well being is put first.
Locally, these juvenile courts often use a great amount of discretion when dealing with mentally ill juveniles accused of committing serious felonies. Generally, the juvenile defense attorney works as part of a team with the judge, district attorney, the Department of Mental Health psychologist, school liaison, probation officers, and a psychiatric social worker. This is precisely why it is important to have an experienced juvenile defense attorney work with the court and others to monitor the progress of the juvenile and to ensure that all mental health issues are adequately addressed.