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Children and youth with disabilities are at increased risk for delinquency and justice system involvement. Further, youth with disabilities are overrepresented in the justice system, often without access to the special education and health services they are entitled to. Parent Centers are a valuable resource to families of justice involved youth who often struggle to understand the justice system and frequently have questions regarding education, health care, re-entry, and more. This Tool Kit was developed to help Parent Centers support families navigating the justice system.


(Use the links in the table of contents to skip to the desired section.)

Section 1 — The Parent Center’s Role

Section 2 — Understanding the Juvenile Justice Process

Section 3 — Intake/Support for Families of Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

Section 4 — Collaboration & Coalition Building

Section 5 — Links & Resources

Section 6 — Acknowledgements

The Parent Center’s Role

Building Your Parent Center’s Capacity to Provide Technical Assistance for Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth and Their Families

Students with disabilities charged or convicted of a crime still have rights under IDEA, Section 504, and/or the ADA. Parent Centers have an important role in providing technical assistance—defined here as activities that increase knowledge, skills, and capacity. The following are activities that your center can organize and participate in to build staff’s capacity to provide technical assistance for juvenile justice involved youth and their families.

Capacity Building:

  • Clarify what your center can/cannot provide
  • Identify potential partners (see Collaboration & Coalition Building below)
  • Provide staff development
  • Collect and create materials (see Links & Resources below)


  • Let the community know, through various means, how you can help
  • Partner with various community-based organizations (see Collaboration & Coalition Building below)


  • Attend/Create workshops on education and health rights of students involved in the Juvenile Justice system
  • Explore how to navigate the Juvenile Justice system in your state (see Links & Resources below)

Individual Assistance:

  • Ask key questions to families contacting your center (see Intake/Support for Families of Juvenile Justice Involved Youth below)
  • Provide resources to families when they contact you

What Other Parent Centers Are Doing

These documents detail the various activities and resources some Parent Centers are involved in around the topic of Juvenile Justice.

  1. Q&A on PTIC Actions Surrounding JJ
    This document illustrates how Advocates for Children of New York is working with justice-involved youth.
  2. Examples of PTICs in Action
    This document provides examples of how three Parent Centers are involved with the community, youth and their families, and other partners to provide training, awareness, and empowerment.

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Understanding the Juvenile Justice Process

The National Juvenile Defender Center created this graphic that illustrates the process that takes place once a youth enters the justice system: SAMPLE Juvenile Justice Overview Flowchart from NJDC. The following document mirrors the NJDC example, and you can edit it to align with your state’s process: TEMPLATE Juvenile Justice Overview Flowchart.

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Intake/Support for Families of Juvenile Justice Involved Youth

Calls from parents when their child has recently been arrested are difficult because we are often dealing with an overwhelmed, emotional, outraged, or despondent parent (or a combination of these). The following documents will guide Parent Centers when they are contacted about a justice-involved youth.

  1. Sample Questions for PTI/CPRC Staff When a Parent/Guardian Calls About an Arrest
    From: Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (
  2. Parent Center Intake Questions
    Developed by the Juvenile Justice Workgroup (see Acknowledgements below)

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Collaboration & Coalition Building

Developing traditional and non-traditional partnerships to advance or begin work with justice-involved youth in each state requires active outreach.

  1. This document lists Potential Partners for Parent Center staff to reach out to for both resources and collaboration.
  2. This document lists Possible Activities that will help in finding collaborators and informing the community of the support Parent Centers can provide.

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Links & Resources

Community and family involvement are critical for the future success of students with disabilities who are involved in the justice system. The following documents provide essential resources for building capacity and understanding of the issue.

  1. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has developed this voluntary State Correctional Education Self-Assessment (SCES) to assist states in self-assessing their systems for providing special education and related services to students with disabilities in correctional facilities.
  2. This resource file was compiled by the Juvenile Justice Workgroup (see Acknowledgements below), who researched and vetted every item in the list for its relevance and usefulness for working with justice involved youth. (Also available to download as an xls file.)
  3. This document provides even more links and resources that can help Parent Centers gather the information they need to support families of justice involved youth.
  4. Join the Parent Center Hub Juvenile Justice Workspace to network and share resources regarding the education of students involved in the “JJ” system. (Members must first register for a Hub Workspace account.)

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The CPIR is grateful to the workgroup that compiled this toolkit for the contribution of their time and expertise. The team examined a multitude of aspects of Juvenile Justice, including:

  • Outreach, intake processes, and technical assistance provided by Parent Centers across the country to inform and share best practices;
  • The extensive barriers and opportunities for both families and Parent Centers to become genuine community-system partners; and
  • The State Correctional Education Self-Assessment (SCES) Tool.

They also reviewed resources related to Juvenile Justice and Students with Disabilities and discussed policies that affect justice involved youth and their families with a look at some of the collateral impact.

Members of the workgroup were Ana Espada (Advocates for Children), Carolyn Hayer (SPAN), Susan Henderson (DREDF), Curtis Jones (Mission Empower), Peg Kinsell (SPAN), and Michelle Phillips (Family Resource Center on Disabilities). We also want to acknowledge the many Parent Center staff members who created the questions for the intake form and the outreach list of potential partners during the CPIR Boot Camp 2017’s workshop on Juvenile Justice.

Thank you, everyone, for your invaluable contributions to this important issue and for enabling the CPIR to provide this toolkit to our Parent Centers in their continued support of children with disabilities and their families.

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Updated August 2023