F.A.Q.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to Your Top Questions:

Parenting Teens in Crisis

What are the warning signs that my teen might be in crisis?

Recognizing signs that your teen might be in crisis is crucial, and it’s something many of us parents worry about. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Sudden Changes in Behavior: If you notice your teen withdrawing from family and friends, experiencing mood swings, or struggling academically out of the blue, it could be a red flag.

  • Extreme Emotions: Keep an eye out for intense emotions like sadness, anger, or anxiety that seem disproportionate to the situation at hand.

  • Risk-Taking Behavior: Be aware of any risky behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm, or engaging in dangerous activities.

  • Physical Symptoms: Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or unexplained physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches can also signal distress.

  • Isolation and Loss of Interest: If your teen is spending excessive time alone or losing interest in activities they once loved, it’s worth paying attention to.

  • Expression of Hopelessness: Listen for signs of hopelessness or despair, including talk of feeling worthless or expressing thoughts of suicide.

  • Difficulty Coping: Notice how your teen copes with stress. If they’re struggling to cope or engaging in unhealthy behaviors, it may be a sign they need support.

  • Changes in Appearance and School Troubles: Sudden changes in appearance or problems at school, such as conflicts with teachers or a drop in grades, could also indicate they’re going through a tough time.

If you notice any of these warning signs, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Whether it’s talking to a therapist, school counselor, or trusted healthcare provider, seeking support is a vital step in helping your teen navigate through their challenges. 

How can I differentiate between typical teen behavior and signs of a deeper issue?

Trying to figure out if your teen’s behavior is just typical teen stuff or something more can be a real puzzle, right? Here are some things that might help:

  • Duration and Intensity: How long has the behavior been going on, and how intense is it? While mood swings and conflicts are normal, if they’re happening a lot or really intensely, it could be a sign of something deeper.

  • Impact on Functioning: Take a look at how your teen’s behavior is affecting their everyday life. If it’s getting in the way of their relationships, school, or just overall happiness, it might be time to dig deeper.

  • Consistency: Is this behavior happening all the time, no matter where they are or who they’re with? Consistency across different situations could be a clue that there’s more going on beneath the surface.

  • Changes in Patterns: Have you noticed sudden or big changes in your teen’s behavior or interests? Sometimes, these shifts can be a sign that something’s up.

  • Gut Feeling: Trust that parental intuition! If your instincts are telling you something’s not quite right, it’s worth looking into further.

  • Communication: Keep those lines of communication wide open with your teen. If they’re willing to talk to you and seek support when they need it, that’s a really positive sign.

  • Seeking Professional Guidance: When in doubt, it never hurts to reach out to a mental health pro who specializes in working with teens. They can help give you some clarity and guidance on how to best support your teen.

Just remember, every teen is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. But with your love, empathy, and willingness to seek help when needed, you’re already doing an awesome job supporting your teen through whatever comes their way. You’ve got this!

What steps should I take if I suspect my teen is in crisis?

If you suspect your teen is in crisis, you can begin with the following steps:

  1. Get Yourself a Support Person: There’s a reason that this is marked as step #1. This journey will likely be challenging and lengthy. You’ll require someone to lean on as you navigate your own path through this season—managing your own emotions, processing grief, and overcoming obstacles. Schedule support for yourself today.
  2. Stay Calm: Keep yourself calm and composed, as your teen may look to you for stability and support during this time. Having trouble staying calm when life feels like it’s in constant chaos? See Number 1.
  3. Listen and Validate: Take the time to listen to your teen without judgment and validate their feelings. Let them know you are there for them and that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling. Having trouble listening and validating? See Number 1.
  4. Assess the Situation: Evaluate the severity of the crisis and whether immediate action is necessary to ensure your teen’s safety. If there’s any risk of harm to themselves or others, seek help immediately. Having trouble evaluating the true severity of the crisis? See Number 1.  
  5. Seek Professional Help: Reach out to mental health professionals, such as therapists, counselors, or psychologists, who specialize in working with adolescents. They can provide an assessment and recommend appropriate interventions.
  6. Utilize Support Networks: Lean on your support networks, such as family, friends, or religious/community leaders, for guidance and emotional support. You don’t have to navigate this alone. I probably don’t need to say it but just in case….See Number 1.
How do I approach a conversation with my teen about their struggles?

Approaching a conversation with your teen about their struggles is like opening up a heart-to-heart with a friend. Here’s how I’d suggest approaching it:

  1. Pick the Perfect Moment: Choose a time when both of you are relaxed and have some privacy. It could be during a quiet moment at home, a trip to Target, or in a perfect world…you talk them into taking a walk with you.

  2. Lead with Empathy: Start by letting them know that you understand things might be tough for them right now. Remind them that you’re there for them, no matter what. Oh, and be prepared for the “no matter what”.

  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Keep the conversation flowing by asking open-ended questions that invite them to share. You could start with something like, “How have you been feeling lately?” or “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. What’s been the hardest part of this week for you?”

  4. Listen, Really Listen: Give them your full attention and listen with your heart. Sometimes, it’s not just about the words they say, but also the emotions behind them. Show that you care by nodding, making eye contact, and offering comforting words when needed.

  5. Be Their Safe Haven: Create a safe space where they feel comfortable opening up without fear of judgment. Try your hardest not to give advice unless they ask for it. Let them know that whatever they share with you stays between the two of you. This time is about establishing yourself as a person they can trust with their hard. There will be time for advice later.

  6. Offer Your Support: Reassure them that you’re in their corner, cheering them on every step of the way. Remind them that together, you’ll figure out a way to tackle whatever challenges come their way.

  7. Brainstorm Solutions Together: Explore possible solutions or coping strategies as a team. Encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas, and be ready to offer your own perspective if they’re open to it.

  8. Respect Their Space: Respect their boundaries and don’t push them to share more than they’re comfortable with. Let them know that you’re here whenever they’re ready to talk, even if it’s not right away.

  9. Check In Regularly: Keep the lines of communication open by checking in with them regularly. A simple “How are you doing today?” or “I was praying for you today” can go a long way in showing that you care.

  10. Consider Professional Help if Needed: If their struggles seem overwhelming or persistent, consider reaching out to a professional who specializes in helping teens navigate tough times. Sometimes, having an extra hand on deck can make all the difference.

Remember, you’re their parent; but you’re also building towards becoming their confidant and supporter. Approach the conversation with love, patience, and understanding.

How can I support my teen's mental health while also taking care of my own well-being?

Balancing your teen’s mental health with your own well-being is like juggling a lot of balls at once, but with practice and healthy boundaries, it’s doable. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  1. Lead by Example: Show your teen the importance of self-care by prioritizing your own well-being. Whether it’s taking time for yourself, practicing mindfulness, or seeking support when you need it, let them see you taking care of you. Time for a bit of self-care? Schedule time for a “pressure release”, to talk through a specific challenge you’re facing, or just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with no expectations.

  2. Keep Communication Open: Talk openly with your teen about mental health and the importance of taking care of themselves. Let them know they can always come to you if they need to talk or if they’re struggling.

  3. Encourage Healthy Habits: Help your teen establish healthy habits that promote good mental health, like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and spending time outdoors.

  4. Listen Without Judgment: Be a supportive listener when your teen needs to talk. Listen without judgment and let them know you’re there for them, no matter what.

  5. Offer Supportive Resources: Help your teen find resources that can support their mental health, whether it’s therapy, support groups, or online resources. Be there to help them navigate the process and offer encouragement along the way.

  6. Set Boundaries: While it’s important to support your teen, it’s also crucial to set boundaries to protect your own well-being. Make time for yourself and don’t be afraid to say no when you need to.

  7. Seek Support for Yourself: Don’t forget to take care of you! Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support when you need it. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

  8. Stay Positive: Stay positive and hopeful, even when things get tough. Your attitude and outlook can have a big impact on your teen’s mental health.

  9. Celebrate Progress: Celebrate the small victories and progress your teen makes along the way. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in boosting their confidence and well-being.

  10. Take One Day at a Time: Remember, you’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough. Take things one day at a time, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve got this!

Are there specific therapeutic approaches or interventions that might be beneficial for my teen?

When it comes to finding the right therapeutic approach for your teen, it’s a bit like finding the perfect fit for a favorite pair of shoes—everyone’s needs are different. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Think of CBT as a toolkit filled with practical strategies to help your teen manage their thoughts and behaviors. It’s great for tackling anxiety, depression, and other common challenges.

  2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is like a crash course in emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. It’s super helpful for teens who struggle with intense emotions or self-harm behaviors.

  3. Family Therapy: Just like a family gathering around the dinner table, family therapy brings everyone together to work through challenges, improve communication, and strengthen relationships.

  4. Mindfulness-Based Therapies: Picture your teen taking a deep breath and finding peace in the chaos—that’s mindfulness at work. It’s all about helping them stay present, reduce stress, and boost their overall well-being.

  5. Trauma-Focused Therapy: If your teen has been through some tough stuff, trauma-focused therapy can provide a safe space to process and heal from those experiences.

  6. Creative Therapies: Sometimes words aren’t enough to express what’s going on inside. Art or play therapy gives your teen a chance to get creative and explore their feelings in a whole new way.

  7. Medication Management: Like a safety net, medication can sometimes provide extra support for teens dealing with conditions like depression or anxiety. It’s worth chatting with a doctor to see if it’s the right option for your teen.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and trying out different approaches is okay until you find what works best for your teen. Trust your instincts, lean on the support of professionals, and know that you’re not alone on this journey. 

What are some strategies for setting boundaries and enforcing consequences while still showing compassion?

Navigating boundaries and consequences with compassion is like finding the perfect balance between firm and friendly. Here are some strategies that might help:

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Start by clearly outlining your expectations and the consequences for not meeting them. This sets a foundation for understanding and accountability.

  2. Be Consistent: Consistency is key! Make sure to follow through with consequences EVERY SINGLE TIME, so your teen knows what to expect and understands the importance of boundaries.

  3. Use Positive Reinforcement: Don’t forget to celebrate the wins! Even when the wins are small. Offer praise and rewards when your teen respects boundaries and demonstrates positive behavior. No one likes someone micromanaging or nitpicking them without at least acknowledging what they’re doing well.  

  4. Communicate Openly: Keep the lines of communication open and encourage your teen to express their thoughts and feelings. Understanding their perspective can help you enforce consequences with empathy. Ask their perspective on how they think things are going and try to adopt some changes that might help them feel like what they want matters. 

  5. Lead with Empathy: Approach discipline with empathy and understanding. Consider your teen’s feelings and circumstances before enforcing consequences, and let them know you’re there to support them.

  6. Involve Your Teen in the Process: Whenever possible, involve your teen in setting boundaries and determining consequences. This helps them feel empowered and invested in the process.

  7. Model Healthy Boundaries: Be a role model for healthy boundaries in your own life. Show your teen how to set boundaries and enforce consequences respectfully and assertively.

  8. Focus on Growth and Learning: Remember that the goal of consequences is not punishment but learning and growth. Use mistakes as opportunities for your teen to learn and develop resilience. 

  9. Stay Calm and Firm: It’s natural for emotions to run high during discipline, but try to stay calm and firm. Avoid escalating the situation with anger or threats.

  10. Seek Support if Needed: If you’re struggling to enforce boundaries or navigate discipline, don’t hesitate to seek support from a therapist, counselor, or trusted friend. You don’t have to do it alone!

Finding the right balance between boundaries and compassion can be challenging, but with patience, understanding, and a little trial and error, you’ll find what works best for you and your teen.

Your Guide to Common Questions:

Navigating the Juvenile Justice System with Your Teen

Some of the answers are specific to our local county but could still offer insight into how things may work in your community.

How do we access the legal services of a court-appointed attorney/public defender?

When a determination is made to prosecute, and charges are officially filed, the prosecutor’s office sends a report, known as discovery, to the office of Thurston County Public Defense. Once the office receives the report at their intake desk, they assign an attorney to the case.

How do we find out who the public defender assigned to the case is?

In Thurston County, the attorney assigned to your child’s case may attempt to make contact with you before the hearing. If they are not able to contact you before the date of the hearing, they will speak with you at the time of the hearing, prior to your child going before the court official. If you have questions about who is assigned to the case or if you have not heard from them, you could also choose to contact the office directly at 360-754-4897.

What is discovery?

Simply put, discovery is the exchange of the legal information and the known facts or evidence between both the prosecution and defense.

How do I hire a private attorney?

Hiring an attorney can be stressful. Deciding on the best person to represent your child is not an easy decision. There are websites out there which may help you narrow down your search. 

 

One such website is Avvo. This website allows you to do a search by the location and area of practice (e.g., criminal law). It also has reviews, which may be helpful.  

 

If you choose to hire an attorney, consider picking a few attorneys and scheduling consultations with each of them. Initial meetings are typically done free of charge. If you can, it’s a good idea to take someone you trust with you for support. It’s essential that you feel comfortable asking your attorney questions and getting their feedback. This is a service you will be paying for, so make sure that they are someone you feel satisfied with. An attorney that rushes in and out, leaving you with unanswered questions may not be your best bet.
 
When making your decision, make sure that you know up front how the attorney will be billing. Some attorneys like to be paid through retainers (that means a more substantial amount of cash up front), others prefer to bill a fixed amount. There are also attorneys who charge by the hour or half hour and even others who create custom-made billing plans. Just make sure you understand what the fees are ahead of time and what those fees will cover. Choose one that works best for you. 

It’s also a good idea to find out if the attorney has had experience in local juvenile courts.  Familiarity with the court helps enable your attorney to know how to best present your case to individual judges based on previous encounters.

 

Last, remember that the attorney you are hiring is there to represent your child. This can be tough if you and your child disagree on how to handle their defense. Keep communications lines clear with your child and their attorney but know that in the end, your child is the client, and the attorney will be working to serve them. 
What is a probable cause hearing?

The purpose of a probable cause hearing also called a preliminary hearing, is to weigh how sufficient the evidence is.  It can also give the defense attorney a glimpse of who the prosecution will likely call as a witness.

What is an arraignment hearing?

An arraignment hearing is when the youth is formally told about charges that are being brought against them. Standard practice in most arraignment hearings is for the child to initialy plead “not guilty”. This gives the youth and defense attorney time to talk before the child decides how he or she wants to resolve the case.

Will I have to post bail?

There are times when a judge sets bail. Bail is usually based on three things. The severity of allegations, the likelihood that the youth may commit another crime, and sometimes whether it is believed that the child will show up to all their court hearings. Your attorney should be able to provide you with more information on the likelihood of a judge setting bail.

How does a bail bond work?

You may hear the words “bail” and “bond” used interchangeably. The two words are closely related but not the same.  Bail is the sum of money a youth is required to pay entirely to get out of jail. A bond is money that is posted on a youth’s behalf, usually by a bail bond company, to secure their release. 

What is a pre-trial hearing?

A pre-trial hearing is what most the majority of hearings are called after the initial arraignment but  before a matter goes to trial are called. The purpose of pre-trial hearings is to try and resolve some of the legal issues and to make sure the case is moving forward towards resolution or trial. 

What is a decline of jurisdiction or remand hearing?

A decline of jurisdiction or remand hearing is a process of determining whether the case of a juvenile with certain serious charges will be transferred to an adult criminal court or stay in juvenile court.

What is a disposition hearing?

In a disposition hearing, also known as a sentencing hearing, the judge hears the details of the youth’s case and orders a set of requirements for the child to follow. This is called a disposition order, and it may include things such as incarceration, probation, treatment, community service, and more.

What is a competency hearing?

A competency hearing is a hearing where the judge decides if the youth is “competent” to be tried. A child cannot be tried if he or she is not competent. To be found competent, the youth must be able to understand the court process and be able to assist the attorney in his or her defense. If the child is not able to accomplish these because of a mental condition, the youth cannot stand trial.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is when the defense and prosecution make an agreement. The youth agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” in exchange for a deal by the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense.

Where are the hearings held?
Local hearings are held at the Thurston County Family and Juvenile Court located at 2801 32nd Avenue SW
Tumwater, WA, 98512.
How long does a hearing take?
Hearing can take a considerable amount of time, depending on how many other juveniles are scheduled. You should plan on a minimum of 1 hour, but it could take up to 2 1/2 hours. You can find more information on what to expect in our local courts on the following site https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/sc/Pages/visiting-the-court.aspx
Is it ok to bring my other children to the hearing?
You should take into consideration how you are feeling emotionally at the time, and the amount of time you will be there. The court process can often bring up unexpected emotions in parents. Don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends during this process.  The courthouse is not always the best environment for children. However, having said that, if a situation arises in which you have no other childcare options, it is ok to bring your other children with you.
When does a matter go to trial?
If the youth is pleading not guilty and an agreement cannot be reached between the prosecutor and the defense it will go before an appointed judge to make a decision on the matter.
What is YDP?
Youth Development Program is a court-ordered, positive youth development program that is utilized in Thurston County as alternatives to incarceration. There are two programs, Seeds of Change and YDP Afterschool, which are both designed to engage youth within their communities positively and constructively.  
What is FFT?
Thurston County Juvenile Courts define Functional Family Therapy as an Evidenced Based Program provided by trained FFT therapists to provide family counseling.  The purpose of FFT is to assist families in solving current problems (risk factors) and building new strategies, skills, and confidence to resolve future issues. Typically, there are 8-12 sessions designed to occur in the family home.   This service is provided at no cost to the family.   
What is ART?
Aggression Replacement Therapy is a therapy that is typically court ordered and done in a group setting. It is designed to teach participants to replace inappropriate behavior with positive alternatives.  
What is Diversion?
Youth who are charged with misdemeanors or certain felony level offenses may be referred by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to Diversion. A Community Accountability Board comprised of 3-5 volunteers, meets with the youth and their family, reviews the offense and assigns appropriate consequences. The program is designed to foster accountability and maximize a sense of community and responsibility in the youth. This may include community service and restitution, among other activities.
What is electronic home monitoring?
Electronic Monitoring is a form of detention. Youth are assigned an ankle monitor that will be programmed to transmit a signal if the child moves outside of a restricted boundary. The fee for electronic home monitoring is $7.50 a day.  The cost is waived if a family member is the victim of the offense or the probation violation.  The fee is also waived if the child receives adoption support.  Parents/Guardians may also complete a Financial Form to request the billing be on a sliding fee based on their income or to set up a payment plan. 
What is the SSODA program?
SSODA stands for Special Sex Offender Disposition Alternative and is a disposition that can be given to youth who have been convicted of a sex offense. The SSODA program is a two-year probation program that is focused on sex offender therapy. Rather than serving a sentence with the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, the court decides to place the youth on two years of specialized probation where sex offender treatment is the focus. This opportunity is given based on the sex offender evaluation recommendations, assessed risk level, compliance with pre-trial conditions, family support, and the youths willingness to participate in the treatment program and follow SSODA conditions. 
When can I visit my child?
Each detention center will have its own set of rules regarding visitation.
For more information on visitation and detention programs here in Thurston County, please call  360-709-3180.
Am I allowed to bring personal items into detention for them?
Locally, only stamps and books may be provided to youth in detention. Any items for the child must be given to staff before entry into the visiting area and marked with the youth’s name, or they will not be accepted. Employees will search the items, and give to the child following visitation. Any item provided without authorization will be considered contraband and could result in lost privileges and possible legal consequences.
Medication for youth has specific requirements. It is best to contact the detention center directly at (360) 709-3180  before bringing any in.
Who is allowed to visit?
At first, visitation is limited to parents and legal guardians. The detention center uses what is known as a level system to help your child understand their behavior expectations. Following the detention center’s rules help your child earn their level. The higher the level, the more privileges they receive. When your child has attained Level 3 or 4 status in detention, they may be allowed visitation with extended family members. Extended family members include siblings, grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles. All family visitors outside of the parent/legal guardian must be approved by the youth’s probation counselor.
For more information on the level system or to find out who the assigned probation counselor is for your child talk to corrections staff at your next visit or you can call (360)709-3180.
What if my child is suicidal?
All juvenile detention centers should have medical and emergency procedures in place. In Thurston County, counseling staff is available to your child. In detention, your child is still your child. You know them best and if you are worried about your child, please reach out to staff and let them know your concerns. 
Can I talk to my child on the phone?
Detention centers typically allow youth to make phone calls at set times during the day or week. The phone calls may be collect calls or non-collect calls depending on the rules of your local detention center.
Will my child be attending school in detention?
Most states have access to some form of education in detention. Locally, youth are given an assessment in Reading, Vocabulary, and Math after they arrive. An assigned teacher then determines the correct level or needs of the child. The teacher will then set up a daily curriculum for the students that will take into account the age group of the children who are being served.
Is my child allowed to get mail in detention?
Here in Thurston County, youth may receive and send mail. All Incoming mail is checked for contraband (items not allowed in detention). Any mail the child cannot keep in custody will be placed in their property. The Detention address for mailing the youth is: 
Thurston County Family and Juvenile Court
Attn: (Youth Name Here)
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502
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