Section 3. Efforts to Limit Court Involvement

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This section of the National Standards focuses on what efforts court system stakeholders should make to limit court involvement when pre-court diversion efforts have not produced desired outcomes. The following Standards offer guidance to judicial, legal and other professionals working within the court system on how they can use the court’s powers to ensure the proper services are implemented while avoiding deeper court involvement.  They also provide specific guidance at various stages of the case to ensure best outcomes for youth and families, highlighting key principles and practices court system stakeholders should utilize along the way.  

Key Principles

Judicial officers should:

  • Dismiss or, alternatively, stay proceedings when community-based services or other formal or informal systems approaches would circumvent the need for continued court jurisdiction (Section 3.1)
  • Assess early whether the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies (Section 3.2)
  • Ensure youth charged with status offenses have independent, qualified and effective representation throughout status offense proceedings (Section 3.3)
  • Not allow children in status offense cases to waive counsel or alternatively only allow waiver if: (1) the waiver is on the record, (2) the court has fully inquired into the child’s understanding and capacity and (3) the waiver occurs in the presence of and in consultation with an attorney (Section 3.4)
  • Exercise their statutory and inherent authorities to determine, prior to adjudication, whether youth and families received, in a timely manner, appropriate interventions that could have limited their court involvement (Section 3.5)
  • Exercise their statutory and inherent authorities throughout the child and family’s court involvement to ensure that service delivery systems are  providing the appropriate assessments, treatments and services to children and families in status offense cases (Section 3.6)
  • Assess alternatives to out-of-home placement or secure confinement (Section 3.7)
  • Not securely detain or confine youth at any point in the status offense process (Section 3.8)

Lawyers for alleged and adjudicated status offenders should:

  • Advocate for voluntary and community-based assistance to limit and/or avoid continued court involvement and secure confinement (Section 3.9)
  • Advocate for child clients to be treated fairly throughout the court process and for their due process rights to be protected (Section 3.10)
  • Ensure that child clients’ rights and entitlements under relevant federal and state laws are protected (Section 3.11)

Judicial officers and entities providing case management services should:

  • Effectively manage and close court and agency cases in a timely manner (Section 3.12)