At-Risk Youth Petitions
At Risk Youth (ARY) petitions are legal civil proceedings in which parents may petition the court for assistance with their at-risk teen. ARY petitions are brought by parents/guardians of a child who is exhibiting high risk behaviors such as running away from home, has a substance abuse problem, or their behavior is beyond parental control.
Court orders may mandate the youth to attend school, remain at home (not runaway), abstain from all drug / alcohol use, follow a curfew, and potentially a list of other case-by-case directives. The petition can help parents, discover more ways to help their child by utilizing community resources. It also puts the power of a judge behind the parents in getting their child to engage in these services and be accountable for their actions.
To be granted the petition, at least one of these three criteria must be present:
- The youth has been absent from the home for a period of more than 72 hours without parental consent
- The youth is beyond parental control such that behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the youth or another person
- The youth has a serious substance abuse problem
Families must have attempted to remedy the situation with household rules and consequences before approaching the court for assistance, and must intend upon keeping the youth in the home. The youth must have no pending criminal charges.
An ARY petition contains the conditions of the parents and puts them into a court order. Some of the conditions allowed in ARY Petitions are: curfew times, no drugs/alcohol, no running away, that the youth must attend school, attend a mental health and/or substance abuse evaluation and follow the recommendations, that they be respectful at home, do no harm to property, refrain from verbal abuse at home, and to have no contact with individuals the parents’ feel are a negative influence. Other possible conditions may be heard by the judge/commissioner and will be accepted as rules in the petition if the judge/commissioner finds them legally acceptable and reasonable.
If the youth breaks these court-ordered conditions, the parents then file a contempt motion with the court. There will be a hearing to determine if the youth did indeed violate the court’s order. If the judge/commissioner finds that the youth did violate the court’s order, the youth will be given a sanction, such as a project, essay or community service hours. Most times, they will be given a period of time in which to “be good” or comply. Compliance can result in the sanction being purged (meaning they won’t have to do it). For instance, the commissioner might assign an essay, but if the youth complies with all orders for a period of two weeks the commissioner will purge the sanction. If the youth does not comply, the commissioner will order the youth to do the essay and give a deadline. Petitions can be active for a year at most, provided that the family has been using the petition, attending reviews hearings every 3 months, and the judge finds ongoing supervision to be necessary.
The entire petition process is focused on family preservation and short term intervention to help a family help itself. This process is designed to hold family members accountable. The purpose is not to punish children who are at risk, but rather to focus on the cause of the risky behaviors and point the family toward ways and means to heal itself. The court order is only a temporary measure toward that end, and is not the solution itself.
To initiate the ARY process, families must first schedule and complete an assessment through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The DCFS assessor will give you some recommendations and explain the process in more detail.
To schedule an appointment, call CPS Intake at 1-866-829-2153.