Programs and Services of the Juvenile Court
Intake and Assessment
Immediately following the formal filing of a charge by the Prosecutor, Fairfield County Juvenile Court begins the process of determining the risk level and needs of every juvenile offender.
Once the youth and parent(s) are served notice of the charge and date of initial court appearance, an Intake and Assessment (I & A) Specialist makes a phone call to the parent to begin compiling a Pre-Arraignment report (PAR) for the Judge or Magistrate. The
PAR contains basic information regarding family background, education, mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and pro-social activities.
Based upon information from this initial phone interview, the I & A Specialist is also able to include recommendations for temporary orders. The PAR is distributed to the judicial staff, prosecutor, and, if appointed, attorney and guardian ad litem (GAL).
Following the youth being found delinquent or upon the signing
of a waiver by the youth’s attorney, the Specialist schedules a meeting/interview with the youth and parent(s). The purpose of
this meeting/in-depth interview is to screen for the youth’s risk of reoffending, and to identify mental health/substance abuse issues, exposure to trauma, or academic concerns. Several evidence-based tools are utilized during this process.
In addition to facilitating the comprehensive interview and screenings, the I & A Specialist contacts collateral sources (for which releases of information have been signed by the parent), including schools, counselors, doctors, Child Protective Services, etc., to gather more information. All information, including results of the interview, screenings, and collateral source feedback, is compiled into a pre-disposition report (PDR), which also includes recommendations for monitoring and intervention.
The PDR is distributed to judicial staff, prosecutors, attorney, GAL, and other necessary Court staff (Behavioral Health team, pending Probation Case Manager, pending Diversion Specialist, or Positive Youth Development Case Manager).
Licensed social work/mental health professionals within Fairfield County Juvenile Court’s Behavioral Health (BH) team provide mental health and substance abuse assessments for juveniles referred from Probation, Diversion, Intake & Assessment, PYD or by the Judge/Magistrates. If through their interview with the youth and parent(s) it is determined that further counseling or treatment is needed, the team will make a referral for the youth to the most appropriate community resource or provide short-term in-house counseling. In addition, the BH team is available for immediate lethality screening and referral when a juvenile is at risk for suicide or is a threat to others. The BH team also provides case consultation services to all Court staff.
The Rise Program (formerly Early Warning System) is a collaboration for resources and expertise between Lancaster City Schools, Fairfield County ADAMH Board, Ohio Guidestone, and Juvenile Court. The purpose of Rise is to identify youth who are at risk for entrance into the juvenile justice system and provide timely targeted services at an earlier stage. Collaborative efforts focus on trauma-informed practices, restorative justice practices, and early referrals from all Lancaster City Schools. The RISE Program addresses three main areas of need:
- Mental Health in schools
- Earlier intervention with youth
- Programming/services for family
Workforce Development Program
In keeping with the principles of restorative justice, the goals of the Workforce Development (WFD) Program are to prepare Court-involved youth for the workforce and to increase their ability to obtain and retain employment.
WFD uses this five-step approach to achieve the goals: assessment, job readiness assistance, individual job search, job placement, and job retention. The WFD Coordinator meets with the juvenile and parent(s) to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the level of assistance needed and identify barriers and challenges.
Each youth attends Job Readiness workshops that provide training in interviewing, time management, work habits/conduct, attendance, communication, conflict management, positive relationships with supervisors/coworkers/good hygiene, and appropriate work attire. The Coordinator meets with the youth to help create resumes, explain job postings and the value of networking, and complete online job applications.
The Coordinator also assists the youth with completing employment paperwork, reviewing employer expectations, determining work schedules, arranging transportation, balancing school and work, and communicating with supervisors. Workplace issues and problems are identified early and addressed as they occur to avoid resignation or firing. Support services are identified and accessed to help each young person maintain employment. School attendance and grades are reviewed on a regular basis.
Subsidized Youth Employment Program (SYEP)
The Subsidized Youth Employment Program (SYEP) provides subsidized wages to at-risk youth while giving employers incentives to provide participants with 120 hours of quality on-the-job training. Youth can be placed with public, private, or non-profit employers. SYEP participants are youth ages 15 to 18 who have multiple barriers that have limited their employability.
The goal or SYEP is to help youth develop the necessary skills and work ethic to transition into unsubsidized employment at the conclusion of the program. Participants attend Job Readiness workshops to prepare for their placement. Fairfield County Juvenile Court has partnered with TeenWorks, Inc. since the program’s inception in 2018 to operate the SYEP program. TeenWorks provides administrative oversight. Funding comes from the Fairfield County Board of Commissioners, Columbus Foundation, Fairfield County Foundation, and United Way of Fairfield County.
The Workforce Development Coordinator maintains consistent contact with employers and youth to monitor and evaluate progress and address any issues, as needed. She ensures participants are equipped to be successful on the job, and she provides support services.
The goal of the Fairfield County Juvenile Court’s Mentor Program is to provide adjudicated, at-risk youth opportunities to work one-on-one with a screened and trained adult mentor whose support and camaraderie will contribute to the development of positive skills in all areas. Studies show that more than 76% of at-risk young adults with a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college, versus 56% of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. Three types of mentoring are available through the Court’s Mentor Program: one-on-one, through which a pre-screened and trained adult is paired with a Court-involved youth; group mentoring, which involves a weekly meeting with a mentor group facilitator who coordinates and leads a variety of pro-social activities; and team mentoring, involving two or more mentors assigned to one or more youth. An example of team mentoring is a husband and wife mentoring one or more youth.
Fairfield County Juvenile Court’s Mentor Program
(video by Judge Terre L. Vandervoort)
The Power of ONE Caring Adult
(a brief video testimony by Josh Shipp)
93 Ways to Connect with Teens
(a PDF document from by Josh Shipp)
Community Service provides Court-appointed youth the opportunity to participate in community service work. (The program was formerly known as Youth Accountability Program.) Youth are referred to Community Service by the Judge/Magistrates, Probation, Diversion, PYD, or Intake & Assessment. Each youth can work off assigned hours under the supervision of the Mentoring/Community Services Specialist at several work sites throughout Fairfield County. Sites have included Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Lancaster and Pickerington, food pantries, Maywood Mission, Foundation Dinners, local churches, highway cleanup sites, and many more. Through working with the Specialist and other approved volunteers, youth assigned to Community Service are provided the opportunity to regain community trust, pay restitution, and fulfill obligations while developing new skills and building quality relationships with adult mentors.
Located at Connexion West in Lancaster, the Fairfield County Reporting Center was established in September 2016 for the purpose of reducing the number of youth placed in secure detention. Partially funded through the Ohio Department of Youth Services, the Reporting Center typically is open Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.
The program accepts youth ages 13 through 17 who are referred by Intake & Assessment, Probation, or by the Judge/Magistrates. Eligible youth may be ordered pre-adjudication, by the Court at adjudication, or as a condition of probation. The Reporting Center provides intensive supervision, as well as supportive services that address identified needs of juveniles who are referred.
Programming is based on cognitive behavioral change and structure. Youth who are eligible include those who are not a danger to themselves or others or to the property of others. In addition, a youth who is a flight risk is not eligible for placement in the Reporting Center. Youth placed in the Center can participate in programming at the Reporting Center for up to 20 days. At times, this track is used when youth on probation need temporary supervision when parent(s) are unable to provide it.