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WHAT IF MY KID GETS IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW?

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WHAT IF?........

by Caryl Harvey

 

 

If I’d gotten up two minutes earlier I would have caught the little weasel in the act.

As it was, I looked out my kitchen window just in time to see our troubled 16 year old Matt drive away in our treasured 1999 Camaro. It was 12:15 am.

We were launched on a journey through the courts and left with lots of questions. I decided to do my homework and make the answers available to you. After all, we work with traumatized kids. They’re likely to get into trouble at some point. And that leads to traumatized adults…US.

 

Kids aren’t treated like adults in the justice system. First, a juvenile isn’t “arrested.” He’s “detained.”  Matt told us he had run away to “find himself.” We asked him if he found himself at Platte Valley Detention Center. Second, juvenile cases are heard in front of a judge only in family court.  Third, juveniles are not convicted of crimes; they are adjudicated.  Fourth, in most cases juveniles will be given into their parents’ custody without actual bond.

 

There are three ways a juvenile might wind up in court. You are probably familiar with the first: DEPENDENCY AND NEGLECT. That’s the way most of these children came to live with us—their parents were charged with dependency and neglect and the kids were removed from the home. I’m not going to address that one as the only obligation you may have in court is to bring the child. The second way a minor might end up in the legal system is as a STATUS OFFENSE CASE. This means runaways, and those children who have gotten so hard to handle that their parents have lost the ability to control them. Third, a child may be in court as a DELINQUENT. That means he is accused of offenses which would be charged as crimes if he was an adult.

 

STATUS OFFENSE CASES:

 

A runaway child.

 

My daughter ran away from home when she was fourteen. There was a family disagreement and she told us she was going to go hang out with some friends until she calmed down. When she didn’t come home that evening, we were worried, but not panicked. We figured she was with her friend and so, safe. BUT WE DIDN’T HAVE THAT FRIEND’S PHONE NUMBER OR PARENT’S LAST NAME SO WE COULDN’T CHECK UP ON HER.

When she hadn’t returned home by mid-morning the next day, my husband Charlie went down to the police station (or as we call it here in our small town, the “cop shop”) to report her as a run away. While he was filling out the papers, the phone rang. The officer who answered it told Charlie it was our daughter. She had turned herself in after spending a sleepless, frightened night in the park…the Greeley, Colorado Park 170 miles away from home. Our daughter wanted to come home.  Charlie drove to Greeley and picked her up.

The things to know if your child is picked up as a run away are:

  • Running away is not a crime. Police will pick up your child and return him or her to you…not to a detention center. UNLESS the child is a habitual run away.
  • Although there is no 24 hour waiting period for reporting missing persons under age 18, police don’t have to start searching for a run away immediately. The only children who pose a critical situation for them are kids under thirteen and those with mental disabilities.
  • Social Services may get involved. A habitual run away may be put in out-of-home placement.  A judge may mandate that your child have counseling, or that your family have counseling.  It is a good thing to set up the counseling on your own, before a judge gets involved. Call your local community mental health center (many of our kids are already on Medicaid, so you won’t have to worry about the cost. Other children who are not on that program will qualify for a sliding “ability-to-pay scale” through a community mental health center, but not through a private counselor) to get an appointment.

 

 

Beyond Parental Control:

 

        This one can be pretty subjective. It includes kids who drop out of school, run around with bad crowds and get involved with questionable and/or dangerous activities. You have to prove you have lost control and are not just trying to abdicate your responsibilities. And if you are successful, custody may be assumed by the Department of Child services and the child put in foster care. This is a tough step to take, but one that—in the long run—may be the best for both of you. Beyonders don’t need that kind of stress.

 

 

DELINQUENT CASES