When a minor commits a crime, he or she could be facing steep consequences that may alter the trajectory of his or her life. Depending on the nature of the crime, one could be facing time behind bars, community service and much more. These offenders may find that a juvenile offense can also affect their social life, mental health, home life and future educational opportunities.
In many cases, juvenile criminal offenses are facing mental health struggles and lack of care. Young offenders often require certain types of support, and with this support, they may be less likely to offend again. Mental health support and access to certain types of care may also prevent behavioral issues that make it more likely a young individual will engage in certain types of activities that could result in juvenile charges.
Mental health care and the criminal justice system
According to Mental Health America, working with the families of children who exhibit behavioral problems can make it less likely a minor will offend or offend again. If your child is showing signs of mental health struggles or is already facing juvenile charges, early intervention is key. As your child’s advocate, you have the right to pursue specific types of care and support, even after an alleged crime. Juvenile offenders often go without mental health care support due to a lack of funding and limited access to care.
MHA asserts that mental health services are critical for a juvenile offender’s future. Studies find that diversion programs and access to wellness-focused resources can help prevent additional issues, and physically detaining a juvenile offender may not be necessary. In cases in which it is necessary to detain and incarcerate a minor, he or she should receive appropriate mental health services while in custody, as well as protection from self-harm or harm from others.
Fight for your child
As a Washington parent, nothing is more important to you than the well-being of your child. If he or she is under investigation, already charged or convicted of a juvenile criminal offense, you have the right to advocate for his or her needs. Your child may need mental health services, and a diversion program may be the most appropriate response instead of being in custody. You will benefit from an explanation of your child’s rights and what you can do to ensure he or she gets deserved care and support.