Appropriate Court Diversion

Section 4.3

State and Local Policymakers and Advocates In those Limited Circumstances where Court Involvement is Necessary, Ensure Court Mechanisms are in place that Allow the Appropriate Court Division to Effectively Serve the Needs of the Youth and Family without Inappropriate Use or Risk of More Punitive Outcomes for the Child and Family

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As is discussed in Section 2.7 and Section 3.1, court officials should ensure all reasonable efforts have been made to avoid or limit court involvement prior to when a case is petitioned to court.  And in those limited circumstances where court involvement is unavoidable, mechanisms should be in place for the court to petition the case into the proper system of care so that the family and child receive the assistance and services they need.  In some instances, the underlying status offense behaviors may relate to high conflict between family members or abuse or neglect that would warrant child welfare system rather than status offense system involvement.  Courts should have the ability, when this information comes to light, to provide the most relevant services and assistance through the appropriate court channels.  

In addition, state and local policymakers should promote laws and policies that do not treat status offense cases as if they were delinquency matters; instead they should avoid using the same dispositional and sanction options, and co-mingling status offense and delinquency dockets and hearing schedules. Adjudicating status offense cases at the same time as delinquency cases sends the wrong signal to youth and families with status offense cases and may result in the court viewing the status offense case through a punitive lens.  Thus, the delineation between delinquency cases and status offense cases should focus on ensuring that youth who are the subjects of status offense petitions are not subject to the punitive sanctions triggered by a delinquency petition. These distinctions should not prohibit the appropriate sharing of confidential and relevant information when a child has a case in both courts or on both dockets.