Section 1. Principles for Responding to Status Offenses

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This section of the National Standards provides a frame and foundation from which professionals working day-to-day with families and youth alleged to have committed status offenses can operate to achieve positive outcomes for everyone.  In doing so, this section highlights 12 key principles to which professionals should adhere to protect youth and family safety, promote family connections and permanence, and ensure youth and family well-being.  Collectively and individually, these 12 principles acknowledge and address the individual, familial and community contexts in which status offenses may occur, and underlie all subsequent Standards articulated herein.

Key Principles

Judicial, legal, law enforcement, justice, social service and school professionals working with youth alleged to have committed status offenses and their families should:

"These Standards of Care provide a framework to help end the vicious cycle that leads vulnerable youth into the school-to-prison pipeline, making dreams for the future possible for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socio-economic class, or immigration status."

Abbe Land
Executive Director and CEO
The Trevor Project

  • Apply a child and family-centric approach to status offense cases by prioritizing child and family safety, well-being and permanency for the child (Section 1.1)
  • Understand and apply current and emerging scientific knowledge about adolescent development, particularly as it relates to court-involved youth (Section 1.2)
  • Understand positive youth development principles and how they can be used to achieve better outcomes for court-involved youth (Section 1.3)
  • Ensure that past trauma and other experiences, which may underlie or lead to status-offending behaviors, are identified and responded to with appropriate screening, assessment, treatment, services and supports (Section 1.4)
  • Implement a status offense system framework that promotes shared leadership and responsibility by encouraging youth engagement in court, agency, and other meetings affecting their case, safety, well-being, treatment services and/or placement (Section 1.5)
  • Utilize alternative dispute resolution strategies to resolve youth and family conflicts outside of the court system (Section 1.6)
  • Employ family engagement strategies that identify and emphasize a family’s strengths, and empower families to find and implement solutions outside of the court system (Section 1.7)
  • Eliminate racial and ethnic disparities by being culturally aware and ensuring impartial and equal access to culturally-competent prevention and intervention services and treatment for youth charged with status offenses and their families (Section 1.8)
  • Understand the developmental, behavioral and social differences between boys and girls and how their service needs are accordingly different.  Make gender-responsive choices regarding interventions, treatment and services before, during, and following court involvement (Section 1.9)
  • Ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth who are charged with status offenses receive fair treatment, equal access to services, and respect and sensitivity from all professionals and other youth in court, agency, service, school and placement (Section 1.10)
  • Ensure children do not enter the status offense system because of learning, mental health, sensory, speech/language or co-occurring disabilities.  Ensure that children with disabilities who do enter the status offense system are treated fairly and given access to needed evaluations, treatments and services (Section 1.11)
  • Coordinate with other relevant formal and informal systems of care to better serve children and families (Section 1.12)