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Navigating the Juvenile Justice System with a Mental Health Challenge: A Parent's Guide


eBook Cover; Navigating the Juvenile Justice System with a Mental Health Challenge: A Parent's Guide

Raising a child who struggles with their mental health can be very overwhelming at times. Whether its coordinating appointments, figuring out insurance, or pushing back on you child's school - it is not for the weak. After speaking with the parents we support we have heard that few things are more overwhelming, and down right scary, to them then helping their child navigate the Juvenile Justice System.

"I've never in my life been more on edge than when my son was in trouble with the police. I was so worried about his future, worried about what it meant for our family as a whole, and quite frankly worried about myself and my husband because he was a minor. There was never a moment during that time that I wasn't thinking about everything that could go wrong. I was constantly worried we were doing and saying the wrong things. I just wanted it to all go away."

-A PA mom who worked with one of our Family Support Partners


Interactions between law enforcement and your child can be very scary, especially for a child who has a mental health challenge. It is best to prepare your child ahead of time for what they could expect if they ever were to have an interaction with law enforcement.


That is why we worked with representatives of Allegheny County's Juvenile Division of the Office of the Public Defender to pick their brains about how a parent can be best prepared before and during juvenile justice involvement.

Should my child disclose to the police that they have a mental health challenge? Yes. We know this feels like it’s no one’s business (and it’s not), but it only helps your child to disclose this information – especially if the mental health challenge impacts the way they communicate. It helps the officers understand your child’s reactions or behaviors and it gets it on the record that you told them about it as soon as possible. If asked, can my child refused to be searched? Your child has the right and should refuse a search. What kind of information is my child required to give to police officers? Your child should tell the officer their name, their date of birth, and the name and phone number of their parent. Things like their school, where they were, or who they were with are not things they need to disclose. Advise your child to only share what is necessary so they don’t accidentally incriminate themselves. My child was asked to come to the police station to provide “some information” should they go? No. Your child does not need to speak to the police to provide additional information or answer more questions, without an attorney present.

These lawyers, educational advocates, and experts helped us create our brand new eBook; Navigating the Juvenile Justice System with a Mental Health Challenge: A Parent's Guide. Everything from advising your child who to share what information with, to understanding the process of a Manifestation Determination hearing is covered in the eBook.


The good news is - you still have time to ask Allegheny County's Juvenile Division of the Office of the Public Defender's representatives your questions!

They graciously are hosting a webinar with us on Wednesday May 3rd at 7 PM and together we cannot wait to get you the answers you need. Don't worry if you can't make it the webinar will be recorded and added right into the eBook itself!



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