Types of Juvenile Offenses
A status offense is only against the law because of the age of the offender. For example, running away from home, possession of cigarettes and truancy are status offenses. Many youth are placed on probation due to a status offense. If they violate the conditions of their probation (e.g. attending school, drug screens, curfew, etc.) they can be placed in the custody of DCS. A delinquent offense is an action that is a crime for all people. The delinquent offense can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
A misdemeanor is an offense, which if committed by an adult, is punishable by a fine or a sentence not to exceed 11 months and 29 days. Examples of misdemeanor offenses are stealing property under the value of $500, evading arrest, using a false ID, minor vandalism, etc. In general, these crimes are not violent, but can include simple assault – such as a fight at school, or domestic fight with a family member.
A felony can be punishable by more than a year incarceration if committed by an adult. These crimes can be against a person or against property – such as possession of illegal drugs for resale, carjacking, armed robbery, aggravated assault, murder or attempted murder, rape, etc.
Types of Placements
Youth found guilty of violent crimes against persons are generally placed in hardware secure facilities. There are two of these in Tennessee – one in Dandridge and one in Somerville. Youth in hardware secure facilities generally stay for longer periods of time due to the length of their sentence.
Youth placed in community-based facilities, run by provider partners, generally have a length of stay of up to 6 months. These community based programs focus on treating mental health and behavioral issues. They also provide family and individual counseling and in home services when the youth returns home.
Dependent and Neglected Youth
If a youth in foster care is dependent and neglected, it means they entered custody due to some family issues that make the family unable to properly care for the youth, but does not preclude the youth from being found guilty of a delinquent offense. A youth may come into custody due to parental drug use, incarceration, neglect, etc. but the youth may also be on probation for a status or delinquent offense and then violate that probation. There are often multiple and complicated family issues that contribute to a youth coming into custody.