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Suggestions for Workers in the Juvenile Justice System

January 21st, 2010

Suggestions for Workers in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Suspect bipolar disorder in all children who come through the system, particularly those that carry diagnoses of conduct disorder and substance abuse.
  • Learn how to recognize symptoms of pediatric bipolar disorder. Request a psychiatric work-up with a child psychiatrist who specializes in pediatric bipolar disorder and forensic psychiatry.
  • Understand that the child's behavior may not be deliberate or malicious, but instead may be a symptom of the disorder.
  • Be aware that the child's negative behavior may become exacerbated under the stress of being in the juvenile court system.
  • When considering sentencing recommendations, understand that placement in a jail or a juvenile detention center is not in the best interest of a child with bipolar disorder. In fact, many psychiatrists believe that this type of punishment is inhumane. A child with bipolar disorder needs treatment and care rather than punishment.
  • When assigning community service to teenagers with bipolar disorder, consider the physical limitations of the condition such as heat intolerance, frequent migraines, and anxiety.
  • Keep in mind that "one size fits all" probation requirements often don't work with youths with bipolar disorder. This is especially true when the requirements involve academic performance. Probation requirements need to be customized for each child.
  • If a child is taking medications for bipolar disorder, be aware of the need to continue medication while in detention.
  • Be selective in your treatment and treatment facility recommendations for a bipolar child. Options such as behavioral modification and survival camps, even if successful in altering behavior of other juvenile offenders, may not be effective with, and may be quite harmful to, children with bipolar disorder. These children often need to have their condition stabilized with a combination of several medications and cognitive therapy.


Families with legal problems are urged to hire a capable local attorney licensed to practice in the state in which the family resides. The Balanced Mind Parent Network (The Balanced Mind Parent Network) is unable to provide you with legal advice and The Balanced Mind Parent Network’s attorneys are unable to represent you.


The information on this web page is not a substitute for legal advice. It is intended to be general in nature. The laws of each state are different. The law is always changing. The information here may not reflect the latest legal developments. NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IS GIVEN AS TO THE ACCURACY OF THIS INFORMATION.

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