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Ward of the Court

When the court declares your child a ward of the court, it takes the legal responsibility for treatment and control of them. This is a serious decision that can make you lose contact with your child and limit your authority over the child. There are instances when your child will not be placed under your care when he or she is declared a ward of court. The court will do that if it finds out that:

  • Your child was previously on probation and did not reform well
  • You are incapable of providing training, care, and maintenance to your child
  • The welfare of your child is best taken care of when away from you

The options that are available for the ward of court range from probation to division of Juvenile Justice. When declaring your child a ward of the court, there are some considerations that the court must put in place. They are:

  • Your child’s age
  • The circumstances that led to your child committing the offense
  • The seriousness of the offense
  • The previous delinquency history of your child

Ward of court declaration may make you lose contact with your child and have no control over them. It is crucial to have an attorney to guide you through the hearing process. The attorney understands the law and will represent you by providing all the available options. He or she will increase the chances of having the decision revoked when your child is declared a ward of court. If you are in the Van Nuys area, get in touch with us at Leah Legal for legal help in all juvenile delinquency matters.

Length of Probation

Wardship may last for a specified period or continue until there is a court order to stop. Your child can be supervised or unsupervised, depending on how well he or she will carry themselves in terms of behavior. In unsupervised probation, the court puts your child under probation without a probation officer to monitor them. The court will only set the terms and conditions to be followed by your child, expecting that the child will adhere to them.

Supervised probation is where after your child is placed on probation, they are assigned a probation officer to monitor the behavior change. Some offenses may make your child be placed on supervised probation. The offenses include burglary and the possession of a controlled substance such as cocaine. Suppose your child is found guilty of committing a crime while in a foreign county; he or she may be returned to the home country and put under your custody.

Your Child's Right In a Juvenile Court

According to California law, the rights the ward of the court is entitled to are:

  • The right of family visitation – If your child has been placed in foster care far away from home, he or she has a right to be visited by their family members
  • Access to the internet and computer – when your child is far from you or the guardian, they can access computers and the internet. Denial of the right may show a law that is being broken somewhere by the law enforcement officers.
  • The right to gender identity – Placement of juveniles in probation facilities depends on the gender of your child. That will be done regardless of the sex outlined in the welfare record.

Conditions of the Probation

When your child is under probation, they too have some rights. There will be conditions and requirements that the minor will have to adhere to; however, they must be reasonable. The conditions of the probation should aim at rehabilitating and reforming your child. Therefore, the requirements of the conditions should:

  • Related to the crime committed by the minor
  • Be related to noncriminal conduct
  • Forbid or ban the actions committed by the minor in the future

Probation Requirements

When your child is placed on probation, some conditions and requirements are set. Your child is expected to adhere to them. The conditions set are usually related to the specific crime that your child committed. Attending school and avoiding violating the laws in California. The conditions that will be set for your child when put on probation are:

  • Being restricted to drive
  • Not violating the truancy laws and attending school
  • Wearing a device to monitor them
  • Not engage in any related criminal activity
  • Prohibition to associate with a specific group of people in the community
  • Honoring the provisions and conditions for curfew

At times you will be required to attend counseling sessions with your child as one of the probation conditions. Therefore, you have to accompany your child whenever they are attending the sessions. There may be excuses for violating some conditions set. For example, your child may fail to attend school if:

  • Your child is attending a dental, vision, or any other medical treatment
  • Your child is sick
  • The health offices have quarantined him or her
  • He or she needs to attend a special occasion with the family members, such as a funeral
  • Your child wants to spend time with a family member who is engaged in military duty
  • He or she has jury duty
  • There is a justifiable reason to miss school

As long as there is a reasonable reason for your child to miss school, that will not violate the probation conditions.

Placement Far From Home

When your child becomes a ward of the court, they may be placed far from you or the guardian. The placement is done for their child's best interest or if the court finds out that the home probation has failed. Placement far from home can be done in different facilities that include:

  • A foster home
  • A private institution
  • In a relative’s home
  • In a public agency

Placement in a Foster Care

When the court decides to place your child in foster care, he or she will be placed far from home in an unlocked facility. The foster care may be a close relative or approved non-relatives. Other foster care facilities include group homes and licensed community care facilities. When the judge declares your child a ward of the court, there are crucial decisions regarding the medication, care, conduct, supervision, and support. Before placement, there are factors that the court should confirm.

  • That you are not in a position to provide guidance, training, and education to the minor
  • That your child’s need to be under supervision for monitoring
  • Your child had previously been under supervision, and that there was no improvement
  • It is in the best interest of your child that he or she is far from you

When choosing the facility to place your child, the court may also consider the options you and other family members will give. However, the probation officer has the final decision on where your child will be placed.

Ward of Court Confinement

Since punishment is not usually the main agenda in a juvenile case, the court may order the ward to be confined. Confinement helps to instill some form of responsibility in your child. Felony convictions are the crimes that will make your child be placed on mandatory confinement. If they have a particular mental disorder, they will be placed in an alternative program for treatment. Some of the facilities where your child can be confined include:

  • A camp or a ranch
  • Juvenile hall
  • A juvenile home
  • A juvenile justice institution

The facilities are generally found in the community that your child comes from. In case they committed a minor crime or have a mental problem, they will be placed in a private institution for recovery. Your child's period will be confined depending on whether the crime committed is a felony or a misdemeanor. The longest length of confinement may be similar to that of an adult crime.

Division of Criminal Justice (DJJ)

It’s a treatment facility where violent and felony juvenile offenders are placed. There are some considerations that the court looks at before placing your child in a DJJ. There should be a concrete reason showing why your child should be placed in the DJJ. The court should also show the need to have your child in a juvenile justice division instead of other alternatives. The considerations are:

  • The importance of addressing the victims’ injuries
  • The protection and safety of the public
  • The best interest of your child
  • The minor's age
  • Their educational needs
  • Maturity level’
  • Individuals risk needs

Other Options for Your Child's Placement

There are times when the court may consider placing your child in an extended family. In that case, the extended family becomes the legal guardian to your child and will make all the decisions regarding medical care and education. There are also instances when the court may decide to place your child in a foster agency or therapeutic foster care. If need be, they may also be placed in a treatment program out of state.

Since the juvenile courts aim to correct the child's behavior, they will return to their home country after probation if they were placed out of their country. The time that your child will spend on probation will depend on various factors. They are:

  • If your child will pose any threat to the community
  • Your child has completed the treatment programs
  • The needs of your child and yours

Placement hearings are then done after every six months.

Restitution, Fines, and Fees

Depending on the crime committed by your child, the court may order them to pay fines. The fines are in addition to the restitution fees. The penalties may be similar to that of an adult. For the court to order your child to do so, it must find out that your child can pay. If not, you, as the parent or the guardian, have the financial liability. If your child’s criminal activity led to any economic losses, then they will be required to pay restitution fees. The victim, in this case, includes even the immediate family of the plaintiff. In case your child caused damage to public property, they will be required to pay the restitution fees to the government to replace and repair purposes. The restitution fee includes payment for:

  • Medical expenses for the victim
  • Mental health services, if any
  • Profits or wages lost by the victim
  • Damaged or stolen goods

The restitution hearing is done to determine the amount of compensation to be done by your child. However, he or she has a right to dispute the restitution amount. Depending on how severe the crime is, your child may be required to pay:

  • $100 -$1,000 as restitution fees for felony offenses
  • $100 as restitution fees if the offense is classified as a misdemeanor

Your Financial Responsibilities as A Parent or Guardian

You may be liable for paying fees, fines, and restitution if your child is not in a position to do so. If you cannot do the same, you should ensure that you show your inability to pay the fees and fine. You also should show that you did not have any notice issued for liability and that you were not present during the delinquency hearing that required you to pay the fees and fines.

Hearing Held in a Juvenile Court

Your child may be required to attend either of the following hearings in a juvenile court.

Detention hearing — the detention hearing is held the third day after your child is locked up for two days. The detention hearing is held for the judge to decide whether your child will remain in custody or go home with you.

Settlement or pretrial hearing — It is a hearing meant to solve issues without going through trials. If the issues are solved at the pretrial stage, there will be no need to attend the court hearing. If not, a transfer hearing is held.

Hearing on motions — Hearing on motions is for setting the date on which specific issues will be heard. The hearing on motions can come at any time

Transfer hearing — The hearing is held to decide if your child will be tried as an adult or minor. If the judge decides to have your child tried as an adult, they will be taken to an adult court. A trial in an adult court happens if your child is more than the age of 14.

The jurisdiction hearing — It is a hearing held to decide if your child is guilty of committing the crime or not. At this hearing, it is essential to ensure that your child has an attorney to guide them on what to say. At the same hearing, the judge will present the legal defenses to increase your child's chances of winning the case. Many are times when minors will confess and agree to the offenses they have done. If the judge finds your child guilty, then a disposition hearing is held. The disposition hearing can be held the same day as the jurisdiction hearing or scheduled on a different date. If your child is innocent, they are let go, and the case against them is dismissed.

Disposition hearing — A disposition hearing is held to decide what punishment to be imposed on your child. If not found guilty, then there will be no disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing, there are different things that the judge may order:

  • That your child stays at home with you and with probation supervision for a maximum of 6 days
  • That your child is better put on probation and sent to a ranch or a probation camp
  • That your child should be put in a Department of Correction and Rehabilitation
  • That your child is in better hands when put on probation and sent to a foster home
  • You, as the parent or the guardian, should attend parenting training and counseling sessions

Review hearing — If your child is placed on probation, review hearings are held to determine their progress.

It is a requirement that during these hearing, that:

  • You show up
  • The judge makes the final decision in the best interest of your child. There will only be an exception if you convince the judge that your child is a good listener and will change the behavior when letting go home with you.
  • The judge may involve you in the hearings by asking questions

Your child may request an interpreter if they need one.

Find a Reputable Juvenile Attorney Near Me

It's a serious decision by the court to declare your child a ward of court. That may negatively impact your life and that of the child because you may be required to separate. You may also lose control over your child. If your child has committed a crime and is about to be made a ward of court in Van Nuys, California, it is essential to seek help from an experienced attorney. The attorney will help negotiate the options available for your child to prevent your child's declaration as a ward of court. At Leah Legal we will represent your child in a juvenile court and present a strong defense against the case. Feel free to contact us at 818-484-1100 and consult our attorneys.