September 23, 2002
YOUTH IN CRISIS LAW
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked for (1) a history and summary of the youth in crisis (YIC) law, (2) a comparison between it and the family with service needs (FWSN) law, and (3) current budgets for both.
The FWSN and YIC laws enable children through age 15 and youths ages 16 and 17, respectively, to obtain services through Juvenile Court if they act out in noncriminal ways such as running away from home, being truant, or being beyond their parents' control. Children who act out sexually are also eligible for FWSN services. The laws also lay out the responsibility of police to look for and report the whereabouts of children and youth who run away from home.
Children have been able to receive such services since 1981. The effort to extend court services to 16- and 17-year olds began in 1993. Bills were introduced then and in subsequent years to extend the FWSN program to youths, and two task forces looked at the issue, but cost was always an obstacle. The legislature finally enacted "An Act Concerning Youth in Crisis" in 2000, and services began only in July 2001. It revised the law this year to clarify its applicability to both 16- and 17-year olds and to immunize police and community officials who help YICs from personal liability.
The YIC and FWSN laws share several features in common, notably who can ask the Juvenile Court to consider a person for services, the court's general authority to order an eligible child or youth to do various things, and the immunity from personal liability of police and community agency officials who assist FWSNs or YICs. The major differences are (1) who is eligible for services (2) potential court orders and the consequences of violating them, (3) procedural details, (4) the responsibilities of the police and, (5) the Judicial Department's role vis a vis other state agencies.
The Judicial Department and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) both fund programs and services for FWSNs; the Judicial Department funds YIC programs and services. Neither department has a separate line item in its budget for these operations, rather they are contained in their overall juvenile justice budget lines. The Office of Fiscal Analysis is attempting to isolate the FY 02-03 costs of the FWSN and YIC programs, which we will forward to you when they are available.
YOUTH IN CRISIS HISTORY
The YIC law (PA 00-177, codified at CGS §§ 46b-150f and g) extends juvenile court services to 16- and 17-year olds who run away from home, are beyond their parents' control, or are truant from school. Similar court services were previously available only to children under age 16 through the FWSN program. The YIC law also allows local police to look for youths who run away from home and, if they find them, report their location to their parents.
The effort to extend court services to 16- and 17-year olds began in 1993 with the introduction of two bills, HB 5238, by the Children's Committee, and SB 437, by Senator Sullivan (the bills were later merged). Neither bill was reported favorably. Similar bills were introduced in 1994, 1995, and 1996, again none passed. But, PA 96-245 established a Youth Task Force to study and make recommendations for legislation, policy, programs, and funding in the following areas: (1) parental responsibility and liability of youths, (2) parental control of youths, (3) emancipation, (4) expansion of the FWSN program to cover youths, and (5) youth transportation.
The task force reported to the Judiciary, Human Services, and Children's committees in February 1997 (a copy of its report is attached). It recommended:
· Extending the FWSN program to 16- and 17-year olds
· Giving parents more control over their 16- and 17-year olds by enabling police to look for runaways and bring them home and requiring parents to consent to their children leaving school
· Raising the school leaving age to 18
· Funding demonstration projects to encourage communities to establish work-based education programs for 16- and 17-year olds
A bill (HB 6970) was introduced in 1997 to implement the task force's recommendations. It was reported to the House floor but did not come up for a vote.
In 1998, "An Act Concerning Truancy and other Family with Service Needs Cases," (PA 98-183) required the chief court administrator and the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to develop and submit to the governor and General Assembly "a family with service needs plan. " It required the plan to include recommendations on extending the Juvenile Court's jurisdiction to youths who run away or are beyond the control of a parent and what services, programs and resources the court would require to do this. The March 1999 report contained several recommendations dealing with administrative issues related to expansion, but it cautioned that (1) OPM recommended against expansion on fiscal grounds and (2) the Judicial Department was not advocating for a change in jurisdiction, leaving that policy decision to the legislature.
Before the report arrived, the Children's Committee favorably reported HB 6801. It was the first bill to create a program for 16- and 17-year olds, who it newly termed "youth in crisis," that was similar to, but distinct from, the FWSN program. Cost was a major obstacle for the bill (as it had been for previous bills). The Judicial Department initially estimated a program would cost $ 3 million annually. The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated it would cost the department at least $ 1 million annually and would be a potentially significant but underminable cost for DCF. Several committees favorably reported the bill, but it died on the House calendar.
YOUTH IN CRISIS LAW
PA 00-177 and Related Budgets
The legislature finally enacted "An Act Concerning Youth in Crisis" in 2000 (PA 00-177). That act permits the Juvenile Court to assume jurisdiction over 16- and 17-year olds who are beyond their parents' control, run away from home, or fail to go to school (who it terms "youth in crisis"). It allows
1. various people to refer such youths to the court,
2. the court to order the youth to participate in various services (such as community or mental health services, and
3. the court to impose sanctions (such as prohibiting driving or requiring work) to enforce those orders.
It specifies that a youth who violates such an order is not delinquent and cannot be incarcerated in a state detention or correctional facility. The act authorizes police officers to look for runaway 16- and 17-year olds and report their location to the parents if they find them, refer them to Juvenile Court, take them to an agency that serves children, or keep them in custody for up to 12 hours. The act took effect July 1, 2001. (A detailed summary is attached. )
In response to the act's passage, the Judicial Department asked for funding for five juvenile probation officers and 20 court support staff, assessments for 50 youths, four temporary shelter beds, and 15 mental health and education services slots in its FY 2001-03 biennial budget request to the governor. The governor's budget recommended eliminating funding, and his bill, "An Act Concerning the Judicial Department and Sheriff Salaries" (Bill 6713), called for repealing the program. The bill was not reported out of the Judiciary Committee.
Instead the FY 2001-03 budget provided the department $ 400,000 in FY 2001-02 and $ 650,000 in FY 2002-03 for YIC programs and services. The governor's proposed midterm revision to the FY 2002-03 budget removed all funds for YIC services and programs. Likewise, the budget adopted in PA 02-1, May 9 Special Session contains no funds for these purposes.
The Judicial Department began implementing the YIC law in July 2001, but only for 16-year olds. It determined that conflicting definitions raised a question over whether the law applied to 17-year olds. In response, the legislature enacted PA 02-109, which makes it clear that the law applies to both ages. And, in response to the governor's and legislature's budget decisions, the act specifies that the Judicial Department may use any funds appropriated to it for juvenile justice programs for YIC programs.
YIC and FWSN LAWS COMPARED (CGS §§ 46b-149 and 150f)
The YIC law shares several features with the FWSN law, notably similar provisions about who can ask the court to consider a person for services, the court's general authority to order an eligible child or youth to do various things, and the immunity from personal liability of police and community agency officials who assist FWSNs or YICs. The major differences are (1) who is eligible for services (2) potential court orders and the consequences of violating them, (3) procedural details, (4) the responsibilities of the police and, (5) the Judicial Department's role vis a vis other state agencies.
Eligibility for Services
A child can be declared a FWSN and a youth a YIC if he or she (1) runs away from home without just cause, (2) is beyond parental control, (3) is a truant (four or more unexcused absences in a month or 10 in one year). A child can also become a FWSN if he or she engages in indecent or immoral conduct or, if 13- to 15-years old, engages in sexual intercourse with someone who is at least two years older.
Eligibility to Ask for a FWSN Determination
The same people can ask the court to name a child or youth a FSWN or YIC. These are: a parent, foster parent, or representative of the child or youth; a selectman, town manager, police officer, or local welfare department; a probation officer; a school superintendent; a youth service bureau; or a child-caring agency licensed or approved by the Department of Children and Families.
The only difference appears to be that a child himself can ask to be declared a FWSN, but a youth cannot ask to be a YIC (CGS §§ 46b-149(a) and 150f(a)).
The FWSN statute contains detailed procedural requirements for determining whether a child is a FWSN (CGS § 46b-149(a)-(g); the YIC law simply requires the court to follow policies established by the chief court administrator when determining whether a youth is a YIC.
By law, a FWSN complaint first goes to a juvenile probation officer who assesses the child and family. If the probation officer determines a child could be a FWSN, he can either refer the child to a community-based agency or, if the case is more severe, petition the court to intervene. The latter step triggers a court adjudicatory hearing to determine whether the child is a FWSN.
The court can issue a summons to the child and parents to appear at this hearing and hold a parent who fails to appear in contempt. Before this hearing, the judge may (1) refer the child to a community-based agency for services or (2) if the child appears likely to injure himself or run away before the hearing, place him in temporary custody with DCF. A decision to place a child in temporary custody triggers its own hearing, which must be held within 10 days of the placement. If truancy is one of the bases for the FWSN petition, the court must ask the child's school to submit an educational evaluation.
Court Orders and Enforcement
FWSN. If, after the adjudicatory hearing the court finds the child to be a FWSN, it can:
1. refer the child to DCF for voluntary mental health services, to a public or private school (if the child is a FWSN solely because of truancy), or a community agency;
2. commit the child to DCF for up to 18 months,
3. place the child under court probation supervision;
4. if the child is a FWSN because of sexual activity, refer him or her for participation in teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease education programs run by a youth service bureau or other community agency and require him or her to perform community service in a hospital, AIDS, or other related program;
5. issue appropriate orders to the parents;
6. require the child to provide restitution to any victims; and
7. issue any other orders necessary to punish or deter the child or protect the public.
A FWSN child who violates a court order can be adjudicated as a delinquent and face appropriate sanctions, including detention. But (1) the child cannot be held in detention before a delinquency hearing for more than 72 hours and (2) if the court commits him to DCF or places him in a Judicial Department facility under the auspices of the Office of Alternative Sanctions, the judge must determine no less restrictive alternative is available (CGS §§ 46b-149, 121, and 148).
YIC. In a YIC case the court can make orders, including those:
1. prohibiting the youth from driving for a court-prescribed period,
2. requiring work or community service,
3. mandating attendance in an educational program in the local community, and
4. requiring mental health services.
The law does not specify what the court can do if a YIC violates its order. But, it cannot find him to be delinquent or place him in detention or a correctional facility (CGS § 46b-150f).
FWSN. If a parent notifies the police that a FWSN child is missing, the police must attempt to locate the child. If they find the child and believe he ran away without permission, they must report the child's location to the parents and may take one of the following actions:
1. bring the child home or to a third party's home,
2. refer the child to Juvenile Court,
3. hold the child in protective custody for up to 12 hours while trying to find a suitable placement (but the child may not be placed in a locked room cell),
4. release the child from protective custody with no further action, or
5. bring or refer the child, with or without his agreement, to a public or private agency that serves children.
YIC. If a parent notifies the police that a YIC is missing, the police are authorized, but do not have, to look for the youth and, if they find him, report his location to the parents. Before reporting a youth's location, the police must make sure the report will not physically or emotionally jeopardize him. The reports must conform to applicable state and federal laws.
The police may also take any of the above actions they can use for FWSNs. If they hold the youth in protective custody, they may not place him in a cell designed or used for adults.
Judicial Department Role
With respect to FWSN and truancy, the statutes require the Judicial Department to:
1. coordinate programs and services with other state agencies,
2. establish protocols with OPM, DCF, and the State Department of Education for referring children to community-based programs before adjudicating cases,
3. develop and use procedures to evaluate the risk and service needs of children who are referred to Juvenile Court; and
4. collaborate with community-based programs.
The statutes contain no similar requirements concerning YICs.