Some insight on Mental Health in the Juvenile Justice System

By Dr. Susan Feneck


Understanding the juvenile justice system can be at times complicated and frustrating especially to the parent or guardian of their child. It is imperative that you know who is involved in your child’s case, it will make the world of a difference. With the many ways a youth can enter the juvenile justice system, so are the many facets in which they go thru while going thru the many corridors they are about to face. While being detained, the youth are brought thru a battery of intake processes and changed into a jumpsuit with undergarments, socks and slippers. As the new day is upon them so aren’t new procedures and systematic checklists that must be done on each resident. After being enrolled into the detention school system, they also go thru an intake process in the nurse’s office then they will eventually have a psychological evaluation (the order may vary on each facility) by a Licensed Mental Health Social Worker, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a Psychologist and sometimes a Psychiatrist.

How do you know if your child’s clinician is right for your son or daughter? It is a good idea to meet with or at least speak with over the phone with who is consulting your child and what the outcome of your son or daughter’s evaluation was and what they deemed necessary as a therapeutic treatment plan if any at all.

Some of the more common diagnosis in detained youth are:

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder - ODD
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – ADHD
  • Severe Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD

Some of the more common psychotropic medications in detained youth can be; Zoloft, Tegretol, Depakote and Paxil. It is important to know what your child has been prescribed, why your child has been prescribed a particular medication and more importantly the side effects of these medications in youth. Some other helpful footnotes…. Understand how to follow-up with the proper physician upon the release of your child. If your child is not properly continued or taken off their medication under professional supervision, sever ramifications are possible.

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