Departments of juvenile services usually address issues of school truancy, run education programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) and manage juvenile corrections services. In the old days, the government was also responsible for running state reformatories for delinquent youth, but these days the trend is to use different tactics to control and treat juvenile delinquency.
Juvenile services programs are generally administered by the state or county in which they are located. State departments of juvenile services also administer their own court system, so juvenile lawbreakers can seek justice separately from the places where adult criminals are tried and convicted. The juvenile court system needs lawyers to work as juvenile advocates and protect the rights of underage offenders. If you are interested in a career helping youth, this might be a good fit for you.
Many of the mental-health issues that plague adults manifest themselves differently in minors, so mental-health services for young people must be tailored specifically to treat their needs. Young people often suffer from undiagnosed and untreated ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and substance abuse. Juvenile mental-health services try to reduce criminal activity and alleviate recidivism in minors by coping with the underlying illnesses that often contribute to antisocial behavior.
In addition to mental illness, many juvenile offenders have also suffered from stressful living environments, often including physical or sexual abuse, and parents or guardians who abuse drugs and alcohol.
For the health and safety of youth suffering from mental illness, the National Mental Health Association (
The rate of mental illness is often found to be higher among youths in the juvenile justice system than among youths in the general population. Federal studies indicate that possibly 60 to 75 percent of incarcerated minors suffer from mental-health disorders, and as many as 20 percent may suffer from severe disorders.
Requirements and Outlook
Positions in most Departments of Juvenile Services include the investigation, control, or supervision of juvenile offenders who have been detained, are awaiting placement, or are otherwise in the custody of the department. Candidates for these positions must generally pass a physical examination to ensure that they are physically capable of performing the duties of the job, along with a mental exam to determine whether they are emotionally and mentally prepared for their new position.
Many lawyers and even juvenile advocates do not know how to help juvenile offenders navigate the mental-health system to get the care they need. Juvenile court personnel will be increasingly relied upon to advise youth and their families on their rights to access mental-health services.