Families are the backbone of the youth which the system is trying to serve. Encouraging and incorporating family involvement at every step of the juvenile justice system would improve outcomes for youth.

Agencies that endeavor to work in closer partnership with families must be culturally competent. Cultural competence is a set of behaviors, attitudes and policies that increase the capacity of an individual or organization to respond effectively within beliefs and practices of individuals, families and communities. Cultural competence can increase the quality of services and produce better outcomes. At times this requires agencies and providers to have non-traditional views of “family” to incorporate necessary supports for every youth. Agencies must also be accessible, by language and by public transportation. Providing information, and explaining the system, to families is one step. Another is to be welcoming to families and to encourage their on-going participation.

For system stakeholders, national best-practices and research-supported reforms to better involve families and to improve youth outcomes can be found the JDAI Research and Policy Brief on this topic. (Link to: Family Engagement in the Juvenile Justice System brief)

Resources for families and youth:


1. Navigating systems

Parent Professional Advocacy League-The Massachusetts Voice for Children’s Mental Health www.ppal.net PPAL has many resources to support system involved families and youth. PPAL encourage families to be active participants in their child’s care and to be prepared to advocate for their children. More information on resources in your area can be found here: http://ppal.net/find-help/statewide-resources

Community Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI). CBHI’s mission is to strengthen, expand and integrate Massachusetts state services into a comprehensive, community-based system of care, to ensure that families and their children with significant behavioral, emotional and mental health needs obtain the services necessary for success in home, school and community. www.mass.gov/masshealth/cbhi


2. Legal Issues

Legal issues about a particular case should be directed to the youth’s lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, or your case has not yet gone to court, contact the Massachusetts juvenile public defender agency, the Youth Advocacy Division (YAD) at the agency office nearest to you. Office locations can be found at https://www.publiccounsel.net/ya/public-resources/ 

Some general information about the juvenile justice process can be found below:

3. School Issues

The EdLaw Project provides comprehensive legal representation in the following areas: special education and related matters, school discipline (suspension / expulsion / felony complaint exclusion), obtaining educational services while in DYS or a correctional facility, rights of homeless students and other educational advocacy areas. Legal representation is generally provided at the school level but in appropriate circumstances our attorneys represent students at the administrative and court levels. Resources can be located at https://www.publiccounsel.net/edlaw/public/

The EdLaw Project maintains a statewide intake and request for assistance line for child welfare attorneys, delinquency attorneys, youth workers, parents, and students. 

Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts provides community education materials which cover many education and special education topics. These can be found at http://www.clcm.org/publications.html

Massachusetts Advocates for Children provides a voice on issues of equal education for all children. http://massadvocates.org/


4. Juvenile Detention

If your child has been detained at the Department of Youth Services, you likely have a lot of questions about what will happen next. Your child’s lawyer should be a good resource for you. In addition, some general information about juvenile detention can be found in our brochure " Information for Parents/Guardians of youth who are newly detained  pdf format of Information for Parents of youth who are newly detained
doc format of                             Information for Parents of youth who are newly detained



The Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) in Massachusetts works to ensure that “the right youth, is in the right place, for the right reasons.”


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative.