The Court utilizes various programs to ensure public safety, consequences for inappropriate behavior, rehabilitation, and structure to the lives of youth and families served by the Court. The goals of the Court include reducing recidivism, providing assistance to victims of crime, and responding to antisocial behaviors and the needs of youth and families in our community.
The Belmont County Juvenile Court has a purpose to serve not only delinquent and unruly youth but also the needs of both dependent and neglected children by providing for their care, protection, mental and physical development, and well-being. The Court, in addition, hears cases of child support, custody, and parentage.
Utilizing various funding sources, the Court has worked hard to ensure not only the success of the court programs but also sustainability. Through contracts and grants with the Ohio Department of Youth Services, the Department of Job and Family Services, the Federal Government, and others the court receives over $500,000.00 annually to support the programs of the Belmont County Juvenile Court.
Probation Department / Probation Department Programs
The Probation Department of the Juvenile Division of the Common Pleas Court is an active department, consisting of a Chief Probation Officer, three Probation Officers, five CCAP Probation Officers, and three Drug Court Probation Officers. All probation officers have caseloads assigned to them according to the program and type of probation. Probation Officers go through firearm certification and various training. It is not unusual for the Probation Officer to be involved with cases or questions on weekends, holidays, and in the early morning hours.
Additionally, all officers have the following required duties:
|1.||Filing violations of law/probation through the Prosecutor’s Office|
|2.||Testifying in Court hearings.|
|3.||Serving as Court Bailiff|
|4.||Completing assessments on youth/writing case plans|
|5.||Writing and filing reports/case note documentation|
|7.||Monitoring those under Court supervision through unannounced visits and drug screens|
|8.||Utilizing arrest authority when appropriate|
Probation Officers work closely and regularly with the Prosecutor’s Office, schools, police, and various support agencies in the County. Attempts are made to have personal “face-to-face” contact with not only youth on probation but all agencies with which this department has a business relationship.
In the Probation Department in the Juvenile Division, not only parents and custodians are dealt with on a regular basis but also adults who have been convicted of contributing to the delinquency or unruliness of a child for contributing. The department supervises adults on probation for these types of charges.
To be an effective knowledgeable operation the probation department maintains the belief that its presence in the schools, police departments, and the community is of the utmost importance. The Probation Officers know the respective environments of those who supervise the issues the clients face on a daily basis. Ongoing, ever-escalating abuse of alcohol and drugs, deterioration in parental supervision, and lack of a home environment conducive to values are the primary reasons for youth becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
The rehabilitation of the juvenile offender is the paramount objective and the court’s use of accountability, responsibility, treatment, and supervision achieves that goal. However, public safety and welfare must be of primary concern when deciding the appropriate action to be taken by a Probation Officer.
The Parent Project is a new program for 2019 to provide support to parents of youth involved with the Juvenile Court. A nationally recognized program, Parent Project can assist parents in dealing with the destructive, negative behaviors of teens. Probation Officer and CCAP Director Noah Atkinson is certified in the Parent Project curriculum and oversees the program. Ohio University Eastern has partnered with the Juvenile Court to offer classroom space for the classes to be held one evening weekly. The curriculum consists of 10 weeks of courses for parents to achieve successful completion. Classes are held one day per week from 5:3-8:30 pm. Parents are expected to attend all classes. Child care is not provided and children are not permitted to attend. The classes are held twice per year. Parent Project offers support to parents in their everyday interactions with their children to improve the relationships between children and their parents.
The Truancy Program implemented in 2010 works in cooperation with schools in Belmont County. The Truancy Program is designed to prevent and eliminate truancy or unexcused absences among students. The Truant Officers work directly with the schools for early intervention with students who have attendance problems and also work with students and their families to help resolve any issues/obstacles that can lead to truancy. Parent Intervention Meetings are held with truant youth and their parents as a diversion tool in an attempt to avoid the filing of charges on the student and/or the parents. Students and parents not following the school’s attendance policies may face sanctions and discipline through the Belmont County Juvenile Court as described in the Ohio Revised Code regarding truancy.
The Internship Program:
The Internship Program works with college students from various local academic institutions assigning students as interns to the Court. Internships are not only a learning experience for students but also an asset to the Court as they are able to provide assistance to Court staff through their hands-on training in the everyday workings of the Judicial System. Interns are permitted to travel with Probation Officers and court staff as they meet with probationers, parents, school officials, police departments, and other professionals involved with youth. Clerks have interns assist in-office procedures and they observe court hearings while assisting in bailiff duties. Interns must submit a written request to the court for permission to intern and a background check is completed for those individuals accepted.
C-CAP (Concentrated Conduct Adjustment Program)
The C-CAP program was developed in June of 1995. Before C-CAP, there was no other service available through the Court to help youth build self-esteem, break bonds of dysfunction, and challenge them to find the internal physical and emotional strength to make effective changes in their lives. The C-CAP program provides intensive supervision and an opportunity for youth and probation officers to work together. Youth reporting on Saturday during the school year and four days a week during summer break. Team building exercises, academic work, life skills, community service, and counseling are required by youth throughout this program.
I. Court Ordered Youth
These youth have charges filed against them and appear in Court. The Judge then sentences/orders placement into the C-CAP Program. These youth must remain in the program until completing levels and graduation is recommended by the assigned probation officer. Youth may be required to participate in C-CAP from six months to one year or longer.
To change the manner in which a juvenile behaves in school, at home, and in public.
To develop self-esteem, discipline, self-confidence, and leadership skills.
To enhance coping skills, anger management skills, and acceptance of consequences for behavior.
II. C-CAP Diversion Program: (Schools or Court send youth)
Youth are referred to the program through their local School Districts or the Court. They are required to be in the program for no more than six (6) weeks.
To aid schools in controlling truancy problems.
To aid schools in handling “unruly” behavior.
To give schools an alternative to out-of-school suspension.
To deter students from future behaviors that could involve court proceedings.
III. C-CAP Alternative School (Belmont County Learning Center):
This program is designed to further augment the school’s Assertive Discipline Plan. The intent is to only replace out-of-school short-term suspensions but also to provide a GED classroom. Youth can experience opportunities on a long-term base outside of the traditional school setting as approved by each school district.
To provides an alternative for out-of-school suspensions.
To help students obtain a better understanding of their school problems and to assist with academic performance and negative behaviors.
To provide an alternative to the traditional school setting.
1. Students suspended from school will be required to attend the C-CAP Alternative School for the period of their suspension.
2. If a student is suspended three (3) times, the school will file a charge on the student resulting in court involvement.
3. The student’s home school will send the student’s assignments to be completed with the assistance of the Alternative School teacher. The student must return the work completed to the home school.
4. Students must appear dressed appropriately according to school guidelines and will work quietly and respectfully throughout the day.
5. Various counseling agencies occasionally hold group discussions with youth during the school day.
6. Students take part in physical activity daily.
Alternative School Virtual Learning Program (VLP)
The Virtual Learning Program (VLP) was started in January of 2011 based on a need to assist students opting out of their home school environments to participate in virtual learning (web-based classes) from their home environment. Often times these students are not disciplined enough to accept the academic and independent challenges of internet-based learning. Students enrolled in virtual learning programs may attend the Alternative school per court orders, school agreements, and/or program acceptance to ensure school assignments are being completed.
The Alternative school has a complete computer lab allowing students to gain access to the web. Students are provided with assistance by staff as needed and their academic work is monitored. This non-traditional classroom environment provides students the opportunity to associate within a small classroom with students participating in the same type of education. Students who are struggling to work independently in their home environments can find benefit from this program offering direct supervision of the youth’s academic performance.
The Court in conjunction with The Ohio State University Extension Office began Carteens in 2000. The Carteens supervisor, an employee of the OSU Extension office, enlists the help of teen leaders to teach and supervise the program. Troopers from the highway patrol and other law enforcement agencies assist in the operation of the program.
Carteens is offered to a first-time traffic offender as a diversion program rather than a court appearance. Alcohol-related offenses and aggravated offenses are not eligible for Carteens. The program lasts approximately 3 hours and a parent is required to attend with their child. Eligible participants will receive a letter in the mail advising of the date and time of the program after receiving a traffic citation. Carteens is designed to increase teen driver awareness of traffic laws, and heighten responsibility and safety. The program is operated pursuant to local rule 10.
Drug and Alcohol Programs
Through graduated sanctions, the court utilizes an array of drug and alcohol programs and sentencing options. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol during teen years is common but unfortunately, youth do not always understand the severity of consequences and the addictions that may occur. The impact of ongoing usage and the effects on families and children of drug and alcohol addicted parents is also of grave concern to the Court. Understanding the necessity of early detection and prevention measures in treating individuals involved with drug and or alcohol-related issues, the staff work diligently to educate youth and families, provide connections for treatment services and monitor and establish goals and boundaries for such individuals to become productive members of our communities.
Substance Abuse Intervention Docket (SAID)
The Substance Abuse Intervention Docket (SAID) is an approximate ninety (90) day program designed to provide education and increase awareness of alcohol and other drug prevention treatment. The goal of this early, effective intervention measure is to reduce drug and alcohol use, general discipline problems, criminal activity, absenteeism, and truancy while enabling the offender to become a productive member of the community.
Only juveniles with a first offense that is considered a misdemeanor by the standards of the Ohio Revised Code are eligible to participate in the Belmont County Juvenile Court Substance Abuse Intervention Docket. In order to participate in the program, they must pay a $75.00 participation fee, admit the charges stated in the complaint are substantially true and the minor and their parent(s) must be willing to cooperate and abide by the terms and conditions of an Agreed Order.
If the minor and family choose to participate in the Substance Abuse Intervention Docket and abide by the terms and conditions of the Agreed Order, then the respective case will not be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court, nor will it result in a juvenile record.
Involvement in the intervention is approximately ninety (90) days; however, that time may be extended if necessary. The length of time in the program is dependent on a child’s progress and compliance with the specific directives outlined in the relevant Agreed Order.
If during the time of court supervision, the juvenile or parent(s) fail to abide by the terms and conditions of the Agreed Order or the juvenile is charged with an additional unruly or delinquent offense, or fails or refuses drug and alcohol testing, shows no or minimal effort to succeed in the program, or voluntarily withdraws, then the case will be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court.
Intense Substance Probation (ISP)
The Intense Substance Probation (ISP) program was created in 2010 as an extension of the probation department enabling drug court staff/probation officers to monitor closely youth on probation with drug and alcohol-related issues. These probation officers are trained to deal with youth and families facing drug and alcohol addiction issues. Traditional terms of probation apply in addition to more intense monitoring of drug and alcohol usage through various types of drug screens and referrals to drug and alcohol counseling and assessments. The goal is to provide early intervention, education, and determent from continued usage in order to prevent addiction from leading to lifelong problems and challenges.
Family Dependency Treatment Court
Family Drug Courts attempt to break the cycle of substance abuse in families by treating drug and alcohol addicted families who face the loss or restriction of their parental rights. The ultimate goal of the court is to maintain family unity.
Belmont County Family Drug Court is a 9-12 month program aimed at returning children to their parents by intervening in drug and alcohol usage through intense supervision and participation in recovery services. When a family comes before the Juvenile Court, a referral of the family will be made by the Children Services Case Manager to the Drug Court Coordinator. If the evaluation of the case indicates that this family would benefit from the Drug Court Program, then a referral for an assessment is made to North Point Counseling Services. A recommendation will then be sent to the Court. If a family accepts the Drug Court program, this demonstrates their willingness to accept all help in reuniting their family.
This program lasts 9 to 12 months on average. Depending on a family’s progress the child may be returned during that time with a disposition of Protective Supervision to the Department of Job and Family Services. The speed at which this occurs varies depending on a family’s progress in treatment and compliance with Family Dependency Treatment Court rules and regulations.
The Belmont County Family Dependency Treatment Court began in 2005 through collaboration between the Court and the Department of Job and Family Services. Currently, the program has a target of five to ten families to serve with the capacity to grow as needed. Initially, families in the Drug Court Program are required to appear before the judge every other week at which time the judge reviews the progress or lack of progress of the family. Intensive counseling with Village Network and monitoring by the case manager will occur. At the end of the program, and if the family has successfully fulfilled the terms of the program, he/she will receive a graduation certificate and a graduation ceremony will take place.
Belmont County Schools Staying Clean
In cooperation with schools throughout Belmont County, the Belmont County Juvenile Court under Judge J. Mark Costine has created the “Belmont County Schools Staying Clean” program to promote abstinence from drugs and alcohol in youth throughout Belmont County. The goal to keep youth out of the judicial system is first as research is proving youth have a better chance of overcoming teenage problems to become successful adults with less interaction in the legal system.
Belmont County Schools Staying Clean program provides support and motivation for staying drug and alcohol-free. Students are given the opportunity through membership to verbalize they are a member of an organization in their school environment in which other peers are also choosing a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. In coordination with Belmont County school districts, Wheeling Hospital, Ohio University Eastern, local law enforcement, and community volunteers, the program’s goals are to provide a solution to avoid using drugs and alcohol.
At the start of the school year, students may join by filling out the Belmont County Schools Staying Clean student form. The cost to a member is an annual $10.00 fee for each school year. The fee covers drug testing and some rewards students may receive throughout the school year. Belmont County schools schedule and plans different club activities for their members. Resources are also available for parents inquiring about treatment options locally for drug and alcohol addictions. Promoting education to youth and diversions from entering the court system is paramount in addressing the needs of youth throughout Belmont County.
Youth in the program are drug tested at random throughout the school year. ALL RESULTS ARE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL. If a test result is positive, only the club coordinator (not the school coordinators) and parent/custodian will be aware of the result. The Court does not interact with youth in any manner in regards to drug screen results as no charges are filed or acknowledgment of positive screens are provided to juvenile court staff unless a parent or custodian makes contact with the Court first. Athletic coaches are not notified nor are school officials. The program goal is to reduce drug and alcohol usage and promote family involvement when needed.
Friends of Drug Court, Inc. is a nonprofit organization working in cooperation with the Belmont County Juvenile Court to provide a funding path for support of this program. Keeping youth out of the court system and promoting healthy lifestyles is invaluable in supporting youth in our communities throughout Belmont County.
Court Custody (Title IV-E)
The Belmont County Juvenile Court may take custody of youth in delinquent and unruly cases for out-of-home placement for children in need of residential treatment, foster care, or group home placements due to the inability of parents to effectively parent a child or ongoing behavioral and/or mental health problems of the child. The Court often takes into consideration not only court employees’ recommendations for a child but also the recommendations of counselors, schools, the local Cluster Board, Children Services, and families when placing a child.
When a child is placed into the custody of the Court, a case manager is assigned either from the Court or the Department of Job and Family Services to monitor the case. A case plan is implemented and approved by the Court to ensure the interests of the child are being served. Case Managers work closely with the youth, their families, and the placement to ensure all of the child’s needs are met. Periodic reviews of the case and court hearings are held to monitor the case as required under the statute.
The Belmont County Juvenile Court is a Title IV-E Court allowing the court to receive federal financial participation funding to assist with the placement of youth for those families income eligible. The Court also receives assistance for payment of placements through the local Cluster Board, the Department of Job and Family Services, Developmental Disabilities Board, and child support. Children are placed into licensed foster homes, residential treatment centers, and group homes.
Restitution and Community Service
The Restitution and Community Service program accepts both delinquent and unruly youth who have been ordered to pay restitution and/or perform community service hours. The restitution portion of the program works to hold juveniles accountable who have committed crimes involving property damages or personal injury against victims. The court restitution and community service coordinators work with victims and the Prosecutor’s Office in order to establish a specific dollar amount to be approved by the court for repayment to the victim. The juvenile is then responsible for making payment of this amount to the Court. Once the restitution is paid in full, the victim is repaid and the juvenile is released from the program. The Court makes every attempt possible to collect restitution in full.
The court works with several local agencies, churches, schools, and government entities to maintain work sites for juveniles to perform community service. Worksites are arranged by the Community Service Coordinator. Progress reports are sent to the Community Service Coordinator by the work site staff notifying the Court of compliance or non-compliance. Juveniles referred to this program have performed various community service activities such as clean-ups of city parks including mowing of grass and painting of playground equipment.
In January 2000, the Belmont County Juvenile Court created the Diversion Program after discovering the Court procedure in effect at the time delayed an initial appearance of a juvenile for many weeks or months from the actual time of the offense.
The Diversion Program is the informal process of diverting youths from further involvement in the juvenile system to an alternative, non-judicial method of dealing with the youth and the offense. Only those youth who have no prior official or unofficial records (first-time offenders) who are alleged to have committed a misdemeanor offense are eligible to participate in the Diversion Program. The Diversion Program fee is $75.00 per case and is required to be paid at the initial meeting.
The goals of the Diversion Program are:
To quickly and efficiently deal with first-time offenders and swiftly administer justice;
To allow the youth to acknowledge responsibility for his or her actions with appropriate consequences;
To provide the youth and family with needed resources; and
To prevent further involvement with the juvenile justice system.
Upon receiving the complaint, the Diversion Program Coordinator will notify the youth and his/her parents in writing the date and time of the scheduled Diversion conference. This conference will be scheduled within ten (10) days of the Diversion Program Coordinator’s receipt of the complaint. In order to participate in the Diversion Program, the youth must admit the charges stated in the complaint are substantially true. If the youth denies or disputes the charges stated in the complaint, the scheduled conference will be canceled and the complaint will then be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court for the youth to respond to the charge(s) in Court.
The youth and his/her parent(s) are required to attend the Diversion conference at which time the following will occur:
The Diversion Program Coordinator introduces herself and gets acquainted with the youth and parents. The youth and parents are also asked to provide information concerning the youth, the family, and the alleged offense. The Diversion Coordinator reads the complaint or police report to the youth and parents. At this time, in order to participate in the Diversion Program, the youth must admit the charges stated in the complaint are substantially true. If the youth admits to the offense, the conference will continue, and the Diversion Program Coordinator will assess the youth and family for concerns. This is done in an effort to link the youth and his/her family to appropriate community resources. If the youth denies the offense or chooses not to participate in the Belmont County Juvenile Court Diversion Program, the conference will end, and the complaint will be filed in the Belmont County Juvenile Court for the youth to respond to the charge(s) in Court. The final stage of the conference involves the youth accepting responsibility for the offense by signing an Agreed Order wherein he/she commits to abide by certain terms and conditions. The youth’s parent(s) or guardian(s) also signs this Order.
The terms and conditions of the Diversion Program Agreed Order are highly variable and depend upon the offense, the youth, and the family needs. The typical time frame of involvement in the Diversion Program is ninety (90) days; however, this time may be extended if necessary. The Diversion Program Coordinator works extensively with school officials, law enforcement agencies, and various agencies providing mental health and drug/alcohol counseling. While participating in the Diversion Program, the youth may expect the Diversion Program Coordinator to contact school officials regarding the youth’s attendance and compliance with school rules and regulations; request the youth to submit to random drug and alcohol testing; perform random curfew checks to ensure compliance, and request status reports from agencies providing mental health or drug/alcohol counseling to Diversion Program participants.
Guardian Ad Litem Program
The Belmont County Juvenile Court utilizes Guardian Ad Litems (G.A.L.) to advocate for young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system. G.A.L.’s are court-appointed volunteers who do not act as an attorney but serve as an advisor to the court regarding the child’s best interests. G.A.L. speak with the child and other interested parties relevant to the case and prepare a written report for the court. The responsibility of the G.A.L. continues until the completion of the case. A G.A.L. may be appointed for any youth involved with the juvenile court who are delinquent, dependant, neglected or abused children. Training programs are required annually for court-appointed G.A.L. advocates.
The Mock Trial Program
Educating children as to the workings of the judiciary, the role the Juvenile Court plays in the lives of Belmont County’s youth, promoting abstinence from drug and alcohol usage, and working closely with schools is important to the operation and function of the Belmont County Juvenile Court. The Mock Trial Program offers an opportunity for middle school-aged youth to learn more about the judicial branch and procedures. The program also provides an opportunity for the Court to educate youth as to the consequences they may face for poor decisions they may make in the future.
The Belmont County Juvenile Court travels throughout the county presenting “mock” proceedings in cooperation with all public and private schools. The mock hearings are often times a dramatization of actual court cases previously heard by the Court. Juvenile Drug Court participants and probationers agree to participate in the mock trials and provide valuable insight from their experiences in an open discussion forum following the mock presentation. The juveniles are able to tell their “stories” and make a connection to the youth throughout the county. This program involves several court staff and participants, including 10 to 12 court employees along with the juvenile prosecutor and public defender at times. The Judge discusses cases, and his actions, and presents the case the same as he would in the courtroom setting.