Parent Referrals

Section 4.5

State and Local Policymakers and Advocates Should Prohibit Parents/Caregivers from Referring Youth who Engage in Status Offense Behaviors to the Juvenile Court until the Family has First Sought and Meaningfully Engaged Non-judicial Interventions

Parents/caregivers are a significant referral source for status offense cases.  In 2009, family members initiated 42% of cases petitioned to the court for ungovernability/incorrigibility/beyond the control of one’s parents.1  Juvenile and family court judges often cite parental demands and expectations as reasons why the court feels pressured to quickly intervene when youth engage in status offenses. The solution to troubled youth behavior, however, does not lie in the courts taking the place of the parent to control the child’s behavior.  As a rule, courts tend to have more sanctions that punish the behavior than they have services designed to resolve it.  The solution lies in empowering parents and family members with the skills and supports they need to effectively communicate with their children, set and enforce boundaries, access economic, education and health-related resources and resolve intra-family conflict without judicial intervention. This may include, but is not limited to, ensuring youth and families can access community-based counseling services, parenting skills development and other family strengthening and alternative dispute resolution processes (See Section 1.5, Section 1.6, and Section 1.7).

1 Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., and Sarah Hockenberry. 2012. Juvenile Court Statistics 2009. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.