Mental health issues are not exclusively found in adults. Children of all ages suffer from mental illnesses as well, and for some this manifests in poor decision making that can then land them in the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, the legal system often overlooks the role of mental health when dealing with juvenile offenders.
Addressing behavioral needs
Washington parents who have children with behavioral issues often understand just how challenging it can be to address their children’s needs. However, the juvenile justice system is rarely the place where children with behavioral issues can actually get the help they need. This is partly because the behavioral problems that typically lead to arrests are very minor, and include things like:
- School related discipline
- Curfew violations
- Mental health breakdowns
It is not just teenagers that get arrested for these issues, either. Elementary school aged children can also be arrested and put through the juvenile justice system, which can be a traumatic experience and even exacerbate existing trauma. This then sets children on a cycle of mental health and behavioral problems, increasing the risk of future justice involvement.
Experts point out that most children who have problems with the law are suffering from unmet social or health needs, which are better addressed by mental health and other support services. Getting access to these services is essential, but it can be difficult while already embroiled in the juvenile justice system. Washington parents who are worried about helping their child navigate this system may want to consider reaching out to a knowledgeable attorney who can help.