Disposition Advocacy

Practical Disposition Solutions for Kids
This 93 page comprehensive manual is designed for juvenile defenders, judges, probation officers, state attorneys and mental health providers who interact with children in the delinquency system in Florida. It provides cost effective solutions for treatment as opposed to commitment. It gives imaginative and resourceful ideas that hold children accountable but still inspire them towards rehabilitation. These resources help connect each child to their communities and to adult mentors.  There are links to many resources in Florida that are free. It was written by the staff at the Juvenile Justice Center. 

Evaluations:

  • Consider getting a mental health or psychological evaluation early in the case so the report is available by disposition.
  • Request a psycho educational evaluation for school issues. Request in writing that the school do it.
  • Have the child evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine the need for medication. See if the medication improves mood stability and impulse control afterwards. Target and Wal-mart offer many $4¬†prescriptions.
  • Consider getting the child a substance abuse evaluation and then have them get into an outpatient program or attend AA/NA for teens. It is free! If their parent is a substance abuser, get the teen into Alateen. Again it is free and they meet in every city in the US. Call for the nearest meetings.

Witnesses:

  • Consider having any of the above evaluators as witnesses at the disposition hearing to testify.
  • Consider filing a family tree explaining the trauma in the family and the strengths of the family. Family Tree Form.
  • Bring forth any witnesses that can show that the child has remorse, has paid restitution or is remedying some of the underlying issues.
  • Bring any relatives, parents, teachers, neighbors or ministers to court to testify on behalf of the child.

Your client:

Consult with your client about his or her ideas for disposition.

  • Prepare the child to testify and dress appropriately.
  • Have the child prepare a letter to the judge for disposition.
  • Have the child prepare a book report on a relevant issue

Placement:

  • If the child is headed for a residential placement, consider an educational placement or private facility first. Look at getting the child a McKay Scholarship to a private school. Then, look at state residential placements that meet the needs of your client. Have the director of the school or placement testify about whether they will accept the child and the services they provide.
  • Try to persuade the parents to agree with your solutions or to find a better one.
  • If the child is also in foster care, consider the placements in dependency court first such as foster care, group foster care or even a crisis stabilization unit or residential mental health facility or residential treatment facility as opposed to a residential delinquency program.
  • Have the parent apply for medical insurance for the child with Florida Kid Care.

Your Dispositional Report:

  • Write a memorandum to the judge summarizing your solutions for the child.
  • Attach report cards and any letters from people who know the child.

Sources of Support:

  • Post a question to the over 350 lawyers in Florida on our listserv.
  • Email us and we can help or post your questions for you on the listserv.