The goal of the Probation Department is to provide the least restrictive program available to meet the needs of your child. The decision to identify the correct program involves looking at several factors. These include the nature of the offense; did it involve violence or result in an injury to another party? Is there restitution owed to the victim and how long will it take to pay the amount? What was the minor's level of remorse or attitude about the offense? Are there issues with truancy, drugs or alcohol, or is the family experiencing a level of conflict which requires probation involvement? These are just some of the areas assessed.
If the matter is a misdemeanor and there is no prior delinquent history then a six month program of diversion can be made available. Diversion is a voluntary program which may involve counseling, regular school attendance, substance abuse intervention, and community work service hours. Diversion is offered in lieu of referring the matter to juvenile court. After six months if the conditions of diversion have been met the case is closed.
If your child has had a previous diversion program from probation and receives a citation for possession of alcohol or marijuana, the matter will be referred to Traffic Court where a fine, counseling and sanctions on a drivers license or privilege can be imposed.
If the referring offense is a felony and /or there are significant concerns regarding a pattern of a risk behavior, then the matter will be referred to juvenile court. The court will refer the matter to Probation to prepare a report which identifies the minor's needs and the level of supervision necessary to correct the behavior. This level of intervention is not voluntary and is not time limited. Jurisdiction of a minor placed on probation can extend to the 21st birthday.
Your child can remain on Probation until he/she reaches the age of twenty-one. Although your child can remain on Probation until the age of twenty-one the Juvenile Court may decide to terminate probation early. The decision to terminate Probation early depends on the nature of the charges, your child's completion of the terms and conditions of Probation and your child's overall behavior while on Probation.
The amount of contact with your child's Probation Officer depends on your child's performance while on Probation. You and your child will see your child's Probation Officer a minimum of one time a month or more on an as needed basis.
The decision to recommend removal of a child from their family is very important and is not taken lightly. A Probation Officer who is considering out of home placement must present the case to the staffing committee. The committee considers the officer's presentation, as well as all available options, before coming to a decision. The committee must be in agreement that out of home placement is in the child's best interest before it will become a recommendation to the court.
Each group home has different program requirements, so it is difficult to answer in terms of a release date. It is best not to think in terms of the child "doing time". Emphasis will be placed on meeting each child's needs during their time at a group or foster home. On average, most children remain in placement approximately 12 months. They will have a court hearing every 6 months to address their progress and expected date of return to their family.
Generally, the child will need one week of clothing, including underwear and socks. A jacket or sweatshirt should also be provided. Most programs will allow the child to wear their own tennis shoes. It is important that the clothing not contain anything that can be considered "gang related", or promote violence, drug/alcohol use, or be sexual in nature. Personal property such as IPODs, music CD's, or cell phones are not permitted. Most programs will consider some personal property after the child has obtained a higher level in their program.
The Juvenile Drug Court (JDC) is a nationally recognized intensive substance abuse program, that combines treatment and accountability. It is a collaboration between the Probation Department, Drug and Alcohol Services, and the Juvenile Court. Each participant is given an individualized treatment plan, that may include a wide range of treatment services. Also included are increased supervision, frequent testing, and weekly court appearances. JDC is a special calendar within the Juvenile Court, and parents are expected to appear in court with their child. JDC is open to most wards of the court who are ready to beginning living a sober lifestyle.
All wards or potential wards are screened for JDC. Priority is given to those juveniles who exhibit the most serious substance abuse issues. There is a limit to the number of juveniles who can take part in JDC, and there is frequently a waiting list. JDC should not be considered a consequence for drug or alcohol use, but an opportunity to gain intensive services to assist them with their substance abuse issues.
Juveniles in the JDC program gain the attention of dedicated professionals whose main concern is your child's sobriety. Parents, as well as minors, will be asked to participate in all program activities and commit to the program requirements. Positive reinforcement, as well as regular accountability, will be used to promote a clean and sober lifestyle. School and home life will also be closely monitored to ensure that the juvenile is making the best use of their free time. Parent Support groups, drug counseling, and community resources will be utilized to further address each participant's issues. Four phases are used to encourage and guide the juveniles to a sober lifestyle. The final stage, Aftercare, assists the juvenile with integrating into the community while resisting the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
California law under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 601(b), states a minor who has four or more truancies within one school year or habitually refuses to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of school authorities is deemed to be within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. The Probation Department is authorized to provide intervention services in an attempt to reduce or stop the behavior.
Attendance at community school requires that students be under the supervision of the Probation Officer. In lieu of filing a petition for truancy under 601(b) of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the WIC 654 contract is an agreement between the minor and parents or legal guardian and the Probation Department to enter into a diversion program of supervision for a period not to exceed 6 months as a condition of enrollment at community school.
A minor is eligible to enroll into community school for the following reasons:
They have been expelled from a school district for any reasons specified in subdivisions a and c of Section 48915 of the Education Code
They have been referred by a school district as a result of the recommendation of a school attendance review board or at the request of the minor’s parent or legal guardian and the approval of the school district
They have been referred by the Probation Department
Are on probation or parole and not in attendance in any school
Diversion is an early intervention program for minors who are first time offenders. In San Luis Obispo County this program is called “ICD, Intensive Community Diversion”. It is set up under the guidelines established within Welfare and Institutions Code 654. It is a lower level of accountability than formal probation, where minors are required to appear in court and follow court orders. Diversion will involve meeting with a probation officer who makes assessments on the strengths and risk factors of the minor and family. If the minor is willing to take responsibility for the offense, a contract is put together. The contract may include the minor/parents taking part in a counseling program; the minor doing community work service, paying restitution if there is a victim, and other assignments. There is no charge for this service. There are some resources within the community that do charge for participation such as Drug and Alcohol's MAP program, an educational four to six week program. Diversion usually lasts up to 6 months but can be extended an additional 90 days for the minor to complete the assignments.
Generally, the first meeting is held at a county office site, where the location is in an area to best suit the needs of the family. Sites include offices in South County, San Luis Obispo, and the coast. For minors residing north of the city of San Luis Obispo there is a North County Diversion Program.
The probation officer is equipped to make assessments and referrals to appropriate local resources based on your child’s needs. When multiple agency involvement is needed a referral is made to an interagency meeting known as SAFE. A probation officer, mental health worker, social worker, EOC representative, school representatives, other agencies asked to attend the meeting, and the family are present to develop a plan to keep the minor safe.
Probation officers are assigned to the Atascadero Unified School District to work with the student population that has been identified as having attendance problems. The joint goal of the district and probation is to identify obstacles that are keeping minors from attending school and eliminating those obstacles so that a minor has regular attendance. The probation officers in these positions are acting, as an extension of the school to assess the minors needs. It does not mean the minor has been placed on probation.