May 01, 2012

Strategies for Intake/Probation Personnel

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

A. Identify as early as possible if a youth has existing learning disabilities and is attending school under an IEP. This will allow the court to know quickly which public schools need to be contacted and undertake appropriate coordination of services/decision-making.

Train personnel to obtain the necessary school IEP information and to recognize the indicator signs for learning disabilities.

B. If a youth does not have an existing IEP, but a learning disability problem is suspected, then use of a standardized screening tool is needed.

The Children’s Nonverbal Disabilities Screening Tool1 may be helpful as an initial learning disability screening tool.

C. Because many youth involved with the juvenile courts have multiple problems and disabilities (mental health, substance use, trauma), it is important to also use broader assessment instruments to identify these co-morbid concerns. The Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument (MAYSI-2) screens for possible mental health and related problems.2

The Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (Y-LSI)3 measures the youth’s offense history, family circumstances/parenting, education (enrollment, suspensions, expulsions, grade level, grades in past year, special education/learning disabilities), peer relations, substance abuse, leisure/recreation, personality/behavior, and attitudes/orientation.

D. Probation department reports should capture the needs of youth identified with learning disabilities, coordinating dispositional planning with the public school districts personnel.

E. Strengthen the role of parents and ensure that families of these youth have meaningful opportunities to participate in education at school and home.4 This could be accomplished with probation officers who are actively supervising and working with the families.