The court hears three types of juvenile cases: juvenile delinquency, Family in Need of Services (FINS) and dependency-neglect cases assigned to the court from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
Juvenile delinquency cases
Juveniles are delinquent if they commit an act which is in violation of Arkansas law and the court determines that the juvenile did, in fact, commit the act. Once a Juvenile is found delinquent, the Court will sentence the Juvenile to one or more of the following:
- Long or short term residential treatment (for alcohol/drug abuse, sexual abuse, or mental instability)
- Up to 90 days in the county detention center
- Commitment to the Division of Youth Services
- Community service
- Fines, fees, court costs, and restitution to the victim
- Monitoring (curfews, monthly reports, random drug screens, etc.)
- Education classes (alcohol/drug, shoplifting, lifestyle management, and other appropriate education)
- Other similar sanctions.
Juveniles in delinquency cases are entitled to counsel. If they cannot afford counsel, one will be appointed through the Public Defender's Office.
Family in Need of Service cases (FINS)
FINS cases are initiated when an adult family member, school official, prosecuting attorney, or other interested party files a petition alleging a juvenile meets one of the three criteria for a FINS case. These criteria are:
- The Juvenile has been habitually absent from the home without justification or permission (example: a runaway)
- The Juvenile has been habitually absent from school without justification (example: excessive school absences or tardiness)
- The Juvenile is habitually disobedient to the reasonable and lawful commands of his or her parent, guardian, or custodian (example: juvenile disobeys rules of the home excessively for a prolonged period)
Once a FINS case is found to be true by the Court (adjudicated), the Juvenile and parents, guardians, or custodians will be subject to the Court's orders and rules. This includes reporting monthly to an assigned juvenile officer, and periodically appearing before the Court for review hearings until the Court is satisfied the Juvenile is no longer in need of services and court supervision.
The purpose of FINS is to provide necessary services to at risk juveniles and their families, to open communication between all interested parties, and to help the juvenile become a productive member of society.
All Juveniles in FINS cases are entitled to counsel. If they cannot afford counsel, one will be appointed through the Public Defender's Office.
If you believe your child or a child you care about is a FINS case and you are interested in filing a FINS Petition, please conttact anyone on our staff at 541-5455 and they will help you with filing your petition.
Department of Human Services
dependency neglect cases
Department of Human Services “dependency neglect” cases in Jefferson and Lincoln counties are referred to the court for hearing. “Dependency neglect” cases arise when a complaint or allegation of child neglect or abuse is made to the Arkansas Department of Human Services. In some cases, these allegations my be made by Department of Human Service employees as a result of their on-going case work.
Child abuse hotline reports
However, anyone can report suspected child abuse to the department through the Arkansas Department of Human Services Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-482-5964. When a person reports a suspicion of child abuse or neglect, the department investigates the report, which may result in a “dependency neglect” case being brought before the court. Under normal circumstances the allegations of abuse or neglect are made against a parent, guardian or an another adult who has the subject child in their care.
The case in the court
When the case comes before the court, all persons directly involved have a right to counsel. The person or persons suspected of abuse or neglect may have their lawyer present, the child is represented by an attorney ad-litem appointed by the court and the Department of Human Services is represented by a department staff attorney.
Grandparents, other relatives, or persons who have a legitimate interest in the case, in some cases, may also be present with their lawyers.
The court is the sole determining authority
The court reviews the Department of Human Services report and takes testimony as it deems necessary. The court makes the sole judgment as to the truth or untruth of the alleged neglect or abuse. Once this decision is handed down, if the allegations are found to be true, the court will order remedies, including, but not limited to the following:
- Removal of the child to alternative care, such as a relative
- Removal of the child to foster care
- Revocation of parental rights
The court may also find that criminal charges should be made against the alleged abuser or abusers.