What is Juvenile Treatment?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 March 2020
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Juvenile treatment is a form of intervention provided to juvenile offenders who experience mental health problems, including addiction. Many legal systems operate under the assumption that juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated if proper intervention is provided, and rather than allowing juveniles to disappear into the justice system, the courts would rather provide juveniles with an opportunity to undergo rehabilitation which might offer them a second chance. Juvenile treatment is offered in a number of justice systems, and can be administered in various ways.

When a juvenile is arrested, she or he is often screened by a social worker for signs of mental health problems which might complicate the juvenile's case. The social worker may refer the juvenile to a treatment court, or referrals can be made by judges, sometimes at the request of law enforcement or other concerned parties. In the treatment court, recommendations can be made to provide additional screening for the juvenile, and to establish a treatment plan.

Juvenile treatment can also be used for juveniles who appear to be at risk of institutionalization, even if they are not directly involved in the justice system. Ideally, intervention will be provided before the juvenile requires assistance from the courts, but this is not always possible, and treatment courts act as a filter to catch juveniles in trouble before they are incarcerated in facilities where it may be hard to provide treatment.


If a juvenile is deemed in need of treatment, he or she may be enrolled in an inpatient or outpatient program. Juvenile treatment facilities can provide secured areas for incarceration paired with mental health interventions which can include screening and treatment for mental health conditions, treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, and psychotherapy to help the juvenile address behavior problems. The juvenile will be periodically reassessed to see if the treatment appears to be effective, and to provide the courts with evidence that treatment was indeed merited.

The ultimate goal of juvenile treatment is to be able to help the juvenile build a new life which may include educational opportunities, chances at employment, and other measures which can help the juvenile avoid returning to the juvenile justice system. This is especially critical for older offenders who will enter the adult justice system if they cannot correct the course of their lives; juvenile treatment is designed to provide people with a safe, stable place to address mental health issues so that when they are released, they have a chance at healthier relationships and a more productive place in society.


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