Most children enter the judicial system with multiple problems. Their families are often in disarray and economic hardship is common. One of the ways we can support children is to quickly identify barriers to their success. Children without adequate health care, nutrition, income, educational services or housing are at increased risk for failure. Although you may be working with a child in the juvenile justice arena or the child protective system, think holistically about the child's needs. The following questions are designed to help identify possible issues of concern and remind us of the layers of problems many of our kids confront.
And remember, children are used to being ignored by adults. Being heard is often more important to a child than the ultimate outcome of the case. Be sure to listen carefully to a child and treat his or her opinions seriously. As a professional provider, you are a representative of a system the child either doesn't understand, fears, or despises. A child's experience and memory of the system often will be you.
10 Issues to Look For:
- Is the child receiving regular health care and covered by health insurance?
- Is the child living in safe housing?
- Is the child attending and progressing in school?
- Is the child entitled to special education services?
- Is there violence in the child's home?
- Is the child's family in need of public benefits (TANF, General Assistance, SNAP, Subsidized School Lunch, Social Security, VA, Earned Income Tax Credit, LIHEAP, MaineCare, or Subsidized Housing)?
- Does the child have a disability that would qualify her for SSI? Or is the child entitled to a child's benefit based upon a parent's death or disability?
- Is the child involved in the juvenile justice system? If so, who is the child's JCCO? Does the child have an attorney, and if so, who?
- Is the child involved in the child protective system? If so, who is the child's guardian ad litem (GAL)?
- Is the child staying with his/her parents or a legal guardian or is a stable caregiver relationship needed?