If your child or teenager becomes involved with the law, you might be overwhelmed. It’s hard to know what to do and where to turn. The process looks nothing like what you might think you know or have seen on television.
Your first concern is your child, but you have a lot of your own feelings. You might feel like people are blaming you for your child’s behavior or for their mistake. It’s very easy to feel guilty, sad, afraid, and shocked. It’s very normal to go through a grieving process too as your child goes through the juvenile justice system. You might even need some extra care yourself to help you get through this.
And now, more than ever, your child needs you as their advocate. Here, we’ve put together some facts and tips about the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) and how they do things, so you can be the best advocate possible.
(If your child is not involved with the law yet, but you think there’s a risk they will be, there are programs to help. Go to our Risky Behavior- When and How to Respond page to learn more about these programs and find some near you.)
Maybe you needed to call the police to help keep your child and family safe. Or maybe someone else called them. Either way, talk to the police as much as possible about your child’s disability. It’s important they know.
For example, if your child has autism and does not like to be touched, letting the police know this before they arrive might keep them from upsetting your child further. Or, if they know your child has an ongoing mental health condition, they might take your child to the hospital rather than to juvenile detention.
You can find more ideas for keeping your child safe and getting the best care possible during a challenging time in our article on working with emergency responders.
Once your child is involved in the juvenile justice system, the process of what happens is slightly different for each child. Each county in Texas runs its own juvenile court and probation system. A judge will decide whether your child is released to your custody or held in a facility based on a number of things, including:
If your child has been charged with a crime, there are some things you can expect:
At every point in this process, open communication is very important. The goal of TJJD and the local probation departments is to help children take part in the community safely and positively. Having your child’s attorney and probation officer aware of their needs helps a great deal.
In cases where the court believes your child’s behavior is a safety risk for their family or others in the community, they might be held in a juvenile detention facility. This might happen while they are waiting for their hearing, or a judge might send them to a TJJD facility for rehabilitation. There is a minimum length of time they have to stay, and the actual amount of time depends on their progress. While they are there, they still have the right to:
We hope this page is helpful to you as you work with the juvenile court system and juvenile probation departments – and work to help your child.
Figuring out what is going on and what to do next in the judicial system is sometimes very difficult, but you don’t have to do it on your own. You can learn more and be the best advocate for your child with some of these guides and programs: