By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Sometimes kids get in trouble for lack of judgment, not realizing the consequences of their actions. If it’s a first offense, like carrying a pocketknife to school, offenders are referred to the Youth Aid Panel, a program of the District Attorney’s office to avoid the stigma and possible criminal record.

It gives youth the option of appearing before a panel of community volunteers rather than entering the juvenile court system.

Unlike traditional methods of intervention where courts make decisions, the juvenile’s family and community are key in the process. Offenders sign contracts and each is assigned a monitor who connects with the youth weekly by phone, keeping him/her on track.

After completing their contractual obligations, offenders meet with the Panel to assess their commitments. Those who fail have their case referred to the courts.

The Youth Aid Panel program has had tremendous success in deterring youth offenders. Of the thousands of juveniles who complete the program, most are not arrested again.

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