Youth younger than 18 who are accused for committing a delinquent or criminal act are commonly handled through a juvenile system. The processes involved in a juvenile system include arrest, detainment, petitions, hearings, adjudications, dispositions, placement, probation, and reentry. This system works by the reason that youth are essentially not quite the same as adults, both in terms of the level of accountability and prospective for rehabilitation. The principal goals of the juvenile system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are addressing treatment needs, rehabilitation, skill development, habilitation, and successful reintegration of youth into the community.
The juvenile or family court is the key factor of the juvenile system. In most cases, the term juvenile justice is frequently utilized synonymously with the juvenile court, but it also may refer to other associated establishments including the court, probation, prosecuting and defense attorneys, juvenile detention centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and the police.
Juvenile systems differ significantly by jurisdiction. The case processing procedure, the organization of courts, and juvenile corrections facilities are classified by state law. Certain juvenile courts have jurisdiction over criminal delinquency, abuse and neglect, and status offense delinquency cases. Criminal delinquency cases involve a process where a child has committed an act that would be regarded as a crime if committed by an adult. Status offense delinquency cases involve acts that would be permissible for an adult, but are illegal for juveniles, such as truancy, running away, incorrigibility or curfew violations. Some courts also have accountability for other types of cases where children are involved, such as child support, consent cases (e.g., consent for a juvenile to have an abortion, marry, be employed, or enlist in the armed services), adoption, termination of parental rights, emancipation, juvenile traffic cases, and dependency.
Before any court processes are observed, a juvenile must be referred to the court. Probation officers, parents, the police, victims, social service organizations, and schools can make referrals. Law enforcement agencies make the majority of referrals in juvenile cases. The police are the key gatekeepers of the justice system and play a fundamental role in the dealing of youths in both the juvenile and the criminal justice systems. They have a huge deal of contact with young lawbreakers and at-risk youth, perhaps more than any other officials or organizations do in the justice system. Most of these contacts are of low visibility and mainly undocumented; only a small part reach the attention of youth detention authorities or juvenile court judges.