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Exploring Juvenile Diversion Programs in IllinoisParenting is hard work. You spend years of your life raising your child from a bouncing baby boy into the strapping young man he is becoming. You would like to think that he has a good moral compass and a sense of what is right and what is wrong. The last thing you want to hear is that your child has gotten himself into trouble with the law. That phone call can be devastating, but now there is one question that keeps running through your mind: what will happen to my child? Depending on what your child has done, he may be eligible to participate in a juvenile diversion program, which is one of the more favorable outcomes of a juvenile offense.

What is a Diversion Program?

Juvenile diversion programs were designed as an alternative to juvenile detention. Juvenile offenders who are convicted of minor offenses can participate in diversion programs. These programs are typically community-based and smaller-scale, which make them more effective at addressing and preventing future delinquency.

The primary goal of juvenile diversion is to reduce the number of juveniles in out-of-home placements after a conviction. Each diversion program is different, but they all have the same end goal: to educate and rehabilitate the juvenile offenders in an effort to prevent future delinquency and mold them into law-abiding citizens. Juvenile diversion programs typically offer services such as:

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Cook County juvenile justice lawyerThe juvenile justice system was created with the understanding that children are different from adults, mainly because they have more of a chance of reforming their behavior before they reach adulthood. In 1899, Illinois was the first state to create a justice system for children that was separate than the one for adults. Though the juvenile justice systems of today are much different than they were 100 years ago, they retain the same idea -- that the main goal is to educate the child and change their behavior, rather than punish them.

Even though there is a separate court for those who are under the age of 18, not all juvenile offenders are tried as minors. Many juvenile criminal cases are transferred to adult court, which works quite differently. If a prosecutor feels the need, they can request that a juvenile be tried as an adult, but the judge must consider a number of factors before this happens.

Age and Background of the Child

First and foremost, a judge will consider the child’s age when deciding whether or not to transfer a criminal case to adult court. In Illinois, most cases involving juveniles age 17 or younger will stay in juvenile court, though there are certain offenses that will automatically go to adult court, such as murder. The judge will also consider the child’s history, such as previous criminal arrests, previous neglect or abuse to the child, and the child’s mental health and educational history.

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