Ohio Juvenile Diversion Programs are early intervention programs for juveniles who are first-time misdemeanor offenders. Diversion programs allows cases to be diverted from prosecution if the juvenile successfully completes the requirements identified at the onset of the 12 month program. Once the juvenile successfully completes the program, his/her criminal record is expunged. The requirements of the program are based on the unique needs of the juvenile offender who works directly and actively with the diversion team. The diversion team includes, but is not limited to, the juvenile, parents/caregivers, police officer, probation officer, magistrate, psychologist, and etc.
In general, juvenile diversion programs have three main goals: (1) Restitution (to hold the juvenile accountable for their offense), (2) Rehabilitation (to encourage positive choices related to academic performance and behavior, and personal goals) and (3) Pro-social Behaviors (to eliminate the risk of future criminal offenses). Parents, guardians and caregivers are strongly encouraged to be involved in the Juvenile Diversion process to support and encourage the success of their child.
The purpose of restitution is to hold the juvenile accountable for their offenses. Restitution may include paying fines to replace property damaged caused by the offense, completing community service hours and/or writing letters of apology to those affected by the offense. Rehabilitation may include goals that focus on school attendance, academic performance and/or personal skills such as decision making or communication. To achieve these goals, the juvenile may be required to participate in counseling, seminars or educational services related to drug and alcohol use, shoplifting or aggressive behaviors.
Psychologists and counselors who work with juveniles enrolled in diversion, can play a significant role as a member of the Juvenile Diversion Team. The team works collaboratively with the juvenile offender and his/her parents from the beginning of the program and throughout, with the goal of successfully completing diversion. Communication between the diversion team members and the juvenile offender provides ongoing support, constructive feedback about decisions or choices and encouragement to participate fully. Counseling can provide the juvenile a private “safe-space” to talk, vent, and develop new ways to deal with stress, fear, conflict and challenges. Although the specific content of counseling sessions remains private and protected under customary HIPPA laws and ethical standards, the counselor’s involvement in the diversion team assures that the juvenile’s goals and progress is not isolated. By adding the psychologist to the diversion team, the juvenile can be held accountable for attending counseling sessions and gain insight and support for developing and utilizing new behaviors. New behaviors such as communicating assertively (as opposed to aggression), calming down during a situation (as opposed to stressing to the point of feeling out of control) and pausing to think before acting (as opposed to lashing out) can be supported by the diversion team. Progress most likely will continue as the juvenile acknowledges how these positive changes have not only resulted in avoiding a repeat of past criminal behavior, but have empowered this individual to feel proud, encouraged and successful about achieving personal and academic goals.