Family Court

 Juvenile Services Department

Intake Department​​

The Juvenile Services Department handles all non-emergency juvenile justice petitions filed in the State of Rhode Island. According to Rhode Island law and the Rules for Juvenile Proceedings, the Intake Department conducts a preliminary investigation into a juvenile justice petition filed in the Family Court to “determine whether the facts are legally sufficient to bring a child within the jurisdiction of the court and, if so, to determine whether the interest of the public or of the child require that further action be taken.” If the Intake Department decides to conduct a diversionary process, the parties to the petition will be contacted to explore the willingness to participate in an informal adjustment hearing.

Through diversionary measures, the Intake Department staff work closely with families to explain all available options including the legal right to contest the petition before a Family Court judicial officer or to attempt to reach an informal agreement to resolve the petition through agreement, conditions, and case management. If an agreement is reached for an informal hearing, the Intake Department staff will work with the parties in a wholistic manner to provide support and determine areas of intervention. A voluntary social history interview and a mental health screening are key components to assessing the level of risk and the Intake Department’s recommendations for resolution of the petition.

Although each case is handled on an individual basis and agreements vary, common conditions of the informal hearing process include community service, letters of apology, restitution, counseling, awareness programs, and referrals to community providers for local assistance in education and family dynamics. On average, cases are tracked for three (3) to six (6) months depending on a host of variables.

The goal of the Intake Department is to divert juveniles from the formal juvenile calendar, reduce recidivism, support developmental and mental health needs, and link families to services that may not be available through other means. Historically, the Intake Department has approximately an eighty percent (80%) success rate at avoiding recidivism.

Juvenile Specialty Court Programs and Calendars

Juvenile Drug Calendar

The Juvenile Drug Calendar is a voluntary specialized court program designed to handle cases involving juvenile offenders with substance abuse issues. The model typically involves a team approach with judicial officers, case managers, clinicians, services providers, and specialists working together to provide intensive supervision, treatment, and support to help juveniles overcome substance abuse problems. The focus is on rehabilitation rather than punishment, with the goal of addressing the underlying causes of the juvenile's behavior and reducing the likelihood of future drug-related offenses.

The Juvenile Drug Calendar has two (2) calendars, one diversionary in nature and one more formal. Most cases are diverted and work through collective agreements, treatment, and monitoring under the supervision of a judicial officer and a case manager. When progress is sufficient, cases may be resolved in three (3) to six (6) months. The Post-adjudication Drug Calendar handles more legally challenging cases or cases involving recidivist juveniles that touch upon substance use concerns. At this juncture both prosecutors and defense attorneys join the team model to balance the planning of a sufficient intervention and a clear path to case resolution.

Truancy Calendars and Informal Hearings

To minimize high risk factors surrounding youth truancy, the Intake Department and the diversion truancy calendars aim to secure school attendance and reduce barriers that prohibit children from attending school daily. The Intake Department will screen all cases and decide whether a truancy case will be handled through an internal informal hearing, a diversionary truancy calendar setting, or proceed to the formal juvenile calendar for arraignment.​

When matters are referred to the Truancy Diversionary Calendar, the customary practice is to have juveniles, parents, school administrators, social workers, and a magistrate meet in a local school setting for a diversionary process. The aim of the program is to identify and address the root causes of truancy, such as family issues, mental health concerns, or academic challenges. The focus is on early intervention, prevention, and support to help students re-engage in the education process and avoid more serious legal consequences in the future.

The Family Court Mental Health Clinic

The Family Court has the advantage of an in-house Mental Health Clinic (MHC) with expertise in clinical and forensic evaluations. Since 2006, the MHC has provided evidence-based forensic assessment and mental health consultation to judicial officers for over 2,000 youth and families. The MHC is a unique collaboration between the Family Court and academic and health care institutions within the State of Rhode Island with the goal of providing forensically trained clinical psychologists and master level clinicians with expertise in adolescent substance use, mental health, competency to stand trial, and risk assessments. The MHC also provides emergency evaluations as needed as well as ongoing staff training on topics related to trauma, suicide prevention, and adolescent development.​​​​​​