When a disposition (sentencing) occurs in a juvenile delinquency case, the court has several options including home on probation, camp, DJJ (prison) or suitable placement.
Juvenile Courts may consider suitable placement for disposition depending on the factual circumstances of the childs case and/ or the childs home life. Children can be placed in out of home care ranging from relatives and non relatives to group homes and Psychiatric Hospitals.
Before making such a court decision, the court will get input from the probation department, the District Attorneys Office, the Juvenile Defense Lawyer as well as input from a court appointed psychologist.
Even if the court orders a commitment to placement, the Interagency Screening Commitee requires certain procedures for children to be considered for suitable placement. The following procedures are applicable for Deputy Probation Officers who are ordered by the Juvenile Court to have a minor screened or who wish to present cases to the Interagency Screening Committee. Preservation before the committee is necessary for admission to a Level 14 placement which include the following facilities: Aviva Center Diagnostic, Research and Treatment Institute (R.T.I.) Harbor View, The Sycamores, Starview C.T.F. , Vista Del Mar C.T. F. and Metopolitan State Hospital.
Criteria to get admitted to Level 14 Placement
The criteria to get admitted to a level 14 placement are the following factors: The child is 17 1/2 years of age or younger, the minor has a full scale I.Q. above 70, there is a current I.E.P. , prior psychiatric hospitalizations, DSM Axis I Diagnosis (Psychiatric Disorder).
The Psychiartric Disorders that are appropriate for a level 14 placement considerations are the following disorders: Schizoaffective Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Any Axis I w/ psychotic features.
Disqualifying Factors for Level 14 Placement
Behavior Disorders not appropriate for a level 14 placement are the following: Conduct Disorder, Cannabis dependence, Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Intermittent Explossive Disorder.
The majority of children coming thru the Juvenile Court system in Southern California will end up in other specialized placement facilities.
In Los Angeles County, Central Placement is the adminstrative hub of the Placement Services Bureau and is responsible for placement of children in out of home care that best meets the need of the child. These specialized placement facilities include programs that address sex offenders, substance abuse, mother infant programs, emancipation programs, sexual identity programs to name a few.
Specialized Suitable Placement Programs
For juvenile sex offenders convicted of violating penal code section 288 (a) offenses and related charges, the facilities are Childrens' Therapeutic Comm., Trinity Apple Valley, Olive Crest Treatment Centers, Optimist Boys Home, Rancho San Antonio, Trinity Corona, Trinity El Monte, Helicon II, Glass, Inc. Mid Valley.
For children with substance abuse, the following residential programs provide counseling to help children overcome their drug problems: Phoenix House, Rancho San Antonio, Olive Crest Treatment Center and Tarzana Treatment Center.
For girls who are pregnant, there is a Mother/Infant Program at Booth Memorial Center, Crittenton Center-LA, Florence Crittenton OC, St. Anne's Maternity House.
Emancipation Programs for foster care children
Emancipation Facilities include: Arrowhead Emancipation, California Family Life Center, Ettie Lee Homes, Inc., Journey House, Leroy's Boys Home, Masada Group Home, Optimist Boys' Home, Pacific Lodge, St. Anne's Maternity Home, Trinity - Corona, Trinity - El Monte. The Emancipation Group Home facilities provide practical job training and assistance to current and former foster care children. These services are directed toward helping them live on their own. They learn life skills, job training, and are provided housing assistance thru these programs.
Sexual Identity Programs
For children with sexual identity issues, these facilities include Children's Therapeutic Comm, Glass, Inc. Penny Lane.
For children with a developmental disability, the Regional Center is a good resource. To qualify, the child must be diagnosed prior to the age of 18 and must have, one of the following disabilities: Mental Retardation (IQ below 70), Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Epilepsy, or other conditions similar to mental retardation (borderline IQ, but the child exhibits signs or symptoms related to mental retardation.)
Documents needed to make a referal are (1) a Pre-Plea Dispo Report, IEP, and a Psychological Evaluation to include IQ testing, DSM Diagnosis - Axis I -V.) In addition, the child's disability must continue or is expected to continue indefinitely and constitutes a substantially for the child. Substantially disability means significant functional limitation in three or more of the following areas of life activity: self care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self direction, capacity of independent living, economic self sufficiency. The Regional Center does not consider other handicapping conditions that are solely physical in nature, solely psychiatric in nature and solely learning disabilities. There are approximately 21 Regional Centers in California. Regional Center helps plan, obtain, coordinate and monitor services and supports that are needed because of a developmental disability.
Rites of Passage
This is a last resort for suitable placement. This is an out of state placement in Nevada. When a child has failed at other placements facilities in California, this is often the place of last resort for children who are chronic runaways. This is often the last stop before a judge determines to send a child to prison at the Department of Juvenile Justice.
If a judge puts a child in Rites of Passage as a first placement choice, an appeal should be considered. The court should always consider the least restrictive placement location as a first choice. This includes a disposition of home on probation or open placement. As an example, in one case, minors former attorney agreed to have the minor suitably placed at Rites of Passage on a first offense misdemeanor vandalism case (for damaging his bedroom) in Los Angeles County. The juvenile court referee then ordered the minor placed at this out of state placement. Mr. Kita was retained to correct the horrible mistake commited by court. Backed by the probation department, Mr. Kita filed a motion for a rehearing which was heard, and granted by the Supervising Judge which ultimately led to a court reversal of the referee and which resulted in a home on probation dispostion.
However, Rites of Passage is always a better choice than the Department of Juvenile Justice. If a Judge sends a developmentally disabled child to prison before considering Rites of Passage, an appeal should be considered. Rites of Passage is a better choice than prison at DJJ otherwise known as the California Youth Authority. Also, it should be noted that Rites of Passage has had a lot of success in helping establish personal discipline, goal setting, and attitude change in children. 2013 marks 29 years of the existance of the Rites of Passage Program in Nevada.
Is suitable placement better than home on probation?
If the family has the same community resources to address a childs needs, then home on probation is a better solution.
In Los Angeles County for example, children often did not necesarily get better care when taken from parents custody and placed at MacLaren Childrens Center in El Monte.
Child Abuse allegations against staff were so prevalent at the MacLaren Children's Center it was ordered shut down by the Los Angeles County board of supervisors in 2003. MacLaren had been overcrowded and deliquent and abused children were mixed in with mentally ill children. The cost to house children at MacLaren was estimated at $270,000.00 per child annually. The ACLU and class action law suits were filed on behalf of children housed at the facility accusing staff of child abuse.
However, to the credit of many of the specialized suitable placement facilities listed on this site, many of these community based facilities have had a far greater success than many of the county run facilities in California. Placement facilities including but not limited to Optimist Boys Home, Rancho San Antonio, Trinity, Olive Crest, Pacific Lodge, Leroy's Boys Home, Penny Lane, Masada Group Home, Phoenix House, have had far greater success than county run facilities.
f the child is border line between home on probation and suitable placement and the parents do not have the financial resources for substantial community resources needed for the child, then consideration should be given to wraparound services.
What is wraparound?
Wraparound involves a multiple agency involvement and a team approach to helping produce a single plan to help the child. It is a community based approach involving weekly meetings with a team of professionals. Typically, these professionals visit with the minor and the minors family on a weekly basis. Services that are often provided include Intensive Psychotherapy provided at home or community setting, a masters level clinician trained in behavior modification, therapeutic treatment and psychological evaluations.
The ideal children for wraparound services are children who or at risk, or who have extended stays at Orangewood in Orange County, MacClaren Childrens Center in Los Angeles County or some other county children's home, Metropolitan State Hospital or RCL 12- 14 group homes.
Wraparound elements include community based treatment, individualized services, culturally competent, participation by parents and agencies must have access to felexible non catergorized funding. In addition, services must be unconditional meaning that if the needs of the child and family change the servies should also change. Wraparonds plans must include a balance of formal and informal services and family resources.
Published studies show that wraparound services have been effective in reducing youths who have a history of running away and they typically spend fewer days incarcerated. Other studies showed that youth that received wraparound servies were less likely to engage in subsequent delinquent behavior. Youths who received wrap around services did not get as many unexcused absences, get expelled, run away from home or have frequent police contact as youths that had conventional juvenile court ordered services.
As a practical matter, it is important that the wraparound team work closely with the minors juvenile defense counsel. Unfortunately, in some counties when the referral for the wraparound program comes directly from probation department as opposed to the court, the duty of loyalty is to the probation officer and not to the child. Problems occur when the probation officer feels that his or her role is "to protect the public" as opposed to rehabilitating the child.
When this occurs, there is a high rate of probation violations the child may face based on the childs struggling to adjust to the wraparound program. For wraparound services to be effective, the multiagency team should work closely with the childs attorney and should only be appointed directly by the court not by the probation department.
Is suitable placement better than DJJ formerly called CYA?
Anything is better than DJJ. DJJ is the abreviation for the Department of Juvenile Justice, formerly known as the California Youth Authortiy. A prison environment is far different than a suitable placement environment. Suitable Placement is geared to provide services for your child. Prison is geared for incarceration. If you have to choose between the two, suitable placement is a better option. A lot of District Attorneys have gone on tours to DJJ. They are sold on the "benefits" of prison because of "services" available at DJJ. Don't let the prosecutor convince you that DJJ is better than suitable placement. DJJ is not a place you want your child to be at.
Hire Mr. Kita now, call (626) 232-0970.
If your child is facing the possibility of being put in a group home, call the Law Offices of George Kita for a free consultation. Taking a child out of the home is generally not the solution to the problem.
We can help guide you thru this very difficult time for your child and your family. Our Juvenile Lawyers possess an enhanced level of experience in defending children. Call today, and retain California's Premier Juvenile Defense Firm. We can help your child today.