Topic:
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY; TRUANCY; RUNAWAY CHILDREN; JUVENILE COURTS; SENTENCING; DRIVER LICENSES; LEGISLATION; PROBATION;
Location:
JUVENILES - DELINQUENCY;

OLR Research Report


September 25, 2006

 

2006-R-0532

YOUTH-IN-CRISIS AND COURT ORDER ENFORCEMENT

By: Ryan F. O'Neil, Research Assistant

You asked what measures could be added to the Youth in Crisis legislation to make the court orders enforceable.

SUMMARY

Currently, Connecticut courts have few options to pursue when a 16- or 17-year-old who has been designated a “Youth in Crisis” (YIC) fails to abide by a court order.

New York and Florida have stiffer sanctions for similar populations. We have included descriptions of those programs. Washington state allow for the immediate placement in a crisis residential center.

YOUTH IN CRISIS PROGRAM

Parents, school or local officials, or police can file a petition for a 16- or 17-year-old who frequently misses school or runs away from home. A juvenile probation officer determines if the YIC law applies, whether the parents want to go ahead with the process, and if the youth accepts responsibility for his conduct. If all these conditions are met, the officer and family then decide what course of action to take.

Currently, several measures available to a judge or a judicial probation officer handling a YIC case, including:

1. ordering the child to attend school;

2. ordering the child not to run away again;

3. directing the of Motor Vehicles commissioner to suspend the driver's license of the YIC for a period of time, up to a year;

4. requiring work or community service;

5. mandating that the YIC attend an educational program in the local community approved by the court;

6. requiring mental health services;

7. referring the YIC to a youth service bureau, provided one exists in the local community; and

8. emancipation of the YIC or the parent or guardian of the YIC.

(CGS 46b-150f (c))

The YIC process is further described in OLR Report 2004-R-0941.

Youth Service Bureaus are responsible for evaluating, planning, coordinating, implementing, and identifying gaps in youth services, including prevention and intervention programs for predelinquent, delinquent, pregnant, parenting, and troubled youth. OLR Report 2005-R-0879 contains more information about Youth Service Bureaus.

If a YIC fails to comply with any of the above court orders, there is no effective tool other than suspending his driver's license. If a YIC violates any of the court orders, the law forbids the court from declaring him a delinquent or imprisoning him (CGS 46b-150f (c)).

OTHER STATES

Other states, including Florida and New York, have programs that are similar to Connecticut's YIC. They offer alternatives for dealing with youths that fail to follow through on court orders.

Florida

Florida has a program known as Child in Need of Services (CINS). A CINS is a child up to age 18-years-old who exhibits any of the following behaviors:

1. persistent run away,

2. habitually truant, and

3. beyond parental control.

He cannot:

1. be the subject of a child abuse or neglect investigation,

2. have an ongoing delinquency investigation,

3. be under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families for an adjudicated delinquency or dependency finding.

(Fla. Stat. Ch. 985.03 (7))

Once the court determines that a child is a CINS, he is given shelter, if necessary, and counseling services.

Florida law allows any child, including a CINS, to be found in contempt of court if he violates a court order. He can be punished either with alternative sanctions or detention in a secure facility. Alternative sanctions include:

1. 50 hours of community service, which may be with a local business or a nonprofit that has contracted with the Department of Juvenile Justice to act as an agent of the state to provide voluntary supervision in exchange for the manual labor of children and limited immunity and

2. revoking his driver's license, one year for the first offense and two years for the second

(Fla. Stat. Ch. 984.09 (3)).

The court cannot use alternative sanctions if a child has already received alternative sanctions for a previous case of contempt of court and failed to comply with them. If this is the case, or if alternative sanctions are not locally available, and the court has determined the child to be a CINS, then the child may be placed in a staff-secured shelter or residential facility for five days for the first offense and 15 days for a second or subsequent offense (Fla. Stat. Ch. 984.09 (2)(b)). If there is no room, the court may place the child in an appropriate mental health facility or substance abuse facility for assessment.

New York

New York has a program called Person in Need of Supervision (PINS). The state defines PINS as a person less than eighteen years of age who:

1. does not attend school in accordance with the provisions of part one of article sixty-five of the education law;

2. who is incorrigible, ungovernable or habitually disobedient and beyond the lawful control of a parent or other person legally responsible for such child's care, or other lawful authority; or

3. who violates the provisions of section 221.05 of the penal law

(N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 712 (a)).

Unless keeping the child in the home is seen as potentially detrimental to the health of the PINS, the court tries to keep him in his home (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 754(2)(i)).

Before a PINS petition seeking to have a youth declared a PINS is filed, the county must provide diversion services to those who are deemed a risk of becoming a PINS. Once someone seeks to file a petition, alternatives are sought by attempts to locate appropriate services (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 712). A conference between the parents, the potential-PINS, the potential-filer, and a representative from the local social services district discuss whether a temporary placement out of the home (with parental permission) might benefit the youth. Other alternatives to detention are sought, as well (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 735(b)).

Once the petition is filed, the law allows the court to look for further alternatives to detention. If a representative from the local social services district determines the diversion services were effective, the petition is dismissed. Diversion services include attempts to engage the youth and his family in appropriately targeted community-based services, including

1. providing information on area counseling services that can assist the youth in avoiding the filing of a PINS petition, such as residential respite programs, non-residential family crisis-counseling, and alternative dispute resolution programs;

2. holding at least one conference with the youth and his family and the petitioning party; and

3. if the petitioning party is a school district or local education agency, reviewing the steps to improve the youth's attendance and behavior before the filing of the petition and deciding with the school district or local education agency if further school-based diversion services would be beneficial to the youth.

(N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 735(d))

Possible outcomes of a PINS hearing are:

1. the discharging the respondent with a warning,

2. suspending judgment, placing the respondent on probation, and

3. placing the respondent in detention.

Along with any of these, the court can make respondent perform community service or provide restitution to any affected parties (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 754).

If the PINS receives probation or a suspended judgment, but violates the terms and conditions of either, the court can proceed to make a ruling that it could have made when the petition originally came before the court. For example, if the court decided upon probation, which included providing restitution to the affected party and performing community service, for a PINS, but then the PINS violated the terms by not performing community service, the court could then place the PINS in a non-detention facility (N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act 756, 757, 758-A).

OPTIONS FOR CONNECTICUT

Federal law permits state and local authorities to place a youth in detention but only if he has violated a court order — doing so in other circumstances places federal funding at risk.

Connecticut could use the example of Florida and New York and stricter penalties in place.

Washington state law allows authorities to immediately place runaways in crisis residential centers for a short period of time, but it is unclear whether this is permissible under federal law.

Connecticut could raise the age of juvenile status to include 16- and 17-year-olds. This would make a wider range of youth services available for the youth and the family.