Grace*—a successful emergency intervention! The Juvenile Court Clinics fulfill a number of crucial roles, such as providing emergency psychiatric evaluations of children.
Grace is a 13-year-old who dressed inappropriately, aimlessly wandered the streets, and attempted to break into cars. When approached by a police officer, she became assaultive and required additional police officers to calm her down. The police engaged the local emergency psychiatric services team to evaluate her for possible psychiatric hospitalization. Though Grace was agitated, uncooperative, and unable to contract for safety, the screener decided against hospitalization and thought the court’s Alternative Lock-up Program would be an appropriate placement.
The next day, Grace was brought into Juvenile Court for arraignment, and the Court Officer reported that she engaged in head-banging in the cell and bit herself repeatedly. Upon hearing this, the Juvenile Court Judge ordered the Juvenile Court Clinic to conduct an emergency evaluation.
The Court Clinician quickly learned some vital history. Grace had previously been hospitalized for similar self-harming behavior. As a young child, she had been sexually abused and now carries diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. In the past, the family received services from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the local Community Service Agency through the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI). Both agencies closed the case because things were “going well” and Grace was compliant. But recently, Grace had taken a turn for the worse. Her mother had been unsuccessful in her attempts to inform professionals of her daughter’s deteriorating behavior.
Because Grace was so unstable at Court, the Juvenile Court Clinician arranged to have her hospitalized. The Court postponed her arraignment and requested that the Juvenile Court Clinician remain involved to help the family access services. The Clinician advocated for Grace’s mother and helped her file for services with the Department of Mental Health. The Clinician also collaborated with the hospital social worker, Grace’s attorney, and her family on an appropriate discharge plan.
The emergency intervention worked! By the time Grace came back to Court, she was doing much better—she was back on her medications and engaged in treatment. The Department of Mental Health was involved and Grace and her family were connected with services in their community. The family appreciated the Juvenile Court Clinic’s responsiveness to their needs and felt so relieved that Grace was back on track.
* To protect confidentiality, MAJCC does not use the names or identifying features of clients. A photo from thinkstock.com is used to illustrate the story.