Children and teens with mental health issues or behavior disorders are more likely to become mixed up with the legal system. Even children without these issues may get in trouble with the law. Peer pressure can put a young person at risk for getting in trouble. Poor judgment or the need to be independent can have the same result. Legal problems are stressful, both for you and your child.
If your child has these issues and finds himself in trouble, he is not alone. The Office of Juvenile Justice Prevention, (2016) estimates that 50 to 70 percent of juvenile offenders have a diagnosable behavioral health disorder. This compares to about 9 to 13 percent of youth in the general population who have a diagnosable disorder.
Breaking the law can be a result of a behavioral disorder such as ADHD. It can also be a result of oppositional defiant disorders or conduct disorders. This happens because the child has no impulse control. They do not associate consequences with his actions. Children who are depressed or have bi-polar disorder may use drugs or alcohol, or become part of a gang to cope with their symptoms. This is also true of those with anxiety or psychotic disorders. Any of these activities may result in legal penalties.
If you are the parent of a child in the juvenile justice system, you will have to be his strongest advocate. As your child’s advocate, you want to make sure your child learns from the consequences of his actions, and at the same time, get the care he needs for his mental health or substance use disorder. It is also important to advocate for your child so he does not have his future ruined.