Glossary: A

"Amenable to Treatment"

A judge’s and prosecutors’ legal assessment of a young offender’s rehabilitation potential according to his/her age, maturity, offense history, and previous therapeutic interventions. Because juvenile court prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment, the assessment often determines whether the youth should be tried in juvenile court or adult criminal court.

Adjudication of Delinquency

A juvenile court judge’s determination as to whether or not a youth committed a delinquent offense. A juvenile adjudication is like an adult criminal conviction, but generally does not subject the youth to the same direct and collateral consequences.

Adjudication of Dependency

In Pennsylvania, the finding that a juvenile court would need to make to provide child welfare services and/or placement in addition to court supervision of the case. Youth may be adjudicated dependent when there are abuse and neglect issues or when there are difficulties at home that prevent parents from adequately caring for or supervising their children. In Pennsylvania, truancy and running away may be grounds for dependency adjudications. A dependency adjudication precludes a child’s placement in foster care or another substitute care setting. However, the court can allow a youth to return home even if there is an adjudication.

Adoption

Legally taking into one’s family a youth whose biological parents have terminated their parental rights. A youth’s adopted parents have all the powers and privileges of a natural parent. One can be adopted at any age.

Aftercare

Services (including health, mental health, educational, vocational, family services, etc.) designed to help youth re-enter the community after placement in out-of-home facilities. Collaboration and planning for aftercare typically begins well before a youth is released to ensure the continuity of supervision and care.

Age of Criminal Responsibility

The age at which an individual is subject to the jurisdiction of adult criminal court instead of juvenile court. In most states, the age of criminal responsibility is 17 or 18, though states also have provisions to transfer younger youth to the adult system.

Amicus / Amici

Derived from the Latin phrase amicus curiae meaning “friend of the court,” the term refers to a person or an organization who, while not a disputing party in a particular lawsuit, writes a brief to the judge to offer expertise on a matter relevant to the case.

Appeal

A disappointed or defeated party’s request to a higher court to reverse a lower court’s ruling. The appealing party must generally prove that the lower court committed a significant legal, factual, or procedural error.

Arrest

When police take or hold an individual in custody in response to a delinquent or criminal charge. An arrest is lawful only when there is probable cause to believe the individual has committed a crime.

Assessment

An evaluation of a youth’s risks and needs in various capacities, including, for example, psychological and psychiatric, educational, and familial. Several types of assessments may be ordered by the juvenile court or undertaken by the juvenile probation department. See also “Screening.”