New juvenile court will help special needs children - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

New juvenile court will help special needs children

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By Tim Guidera bio | email

SAVANNAH (WTOC) - The Chatham County Juvenile Mental Health Court will attempt to help children with mental health issues who have already been ruled delinquent in juvenile court by putting them in a program that will identify and manage the behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.

The new court was introduced Tuesday and is the first of its kind in the southeast.

"The goal is to provide services to the children and their families,'' said juvenile court administrator Crystal Cooper. "And in doing so, we can make them successful out in the community.''

Unlike than traditional probation, the Juvenile Mental Health Court will attempt to provide children with special supervision by partnering with dozens of community agencies.

And with the help of mentoring programs such as Big Brothers and Sisters or All Walks of Life, which promotes self-awareness through performing arts, people on both sides of the juvenile court system see the potential benefits.

"We have court reviews every three weeks where we assess how the child has been doing during that period of time,'' said assistant public defender Mark Nathan. "And that's very different than kids who are on regular probation where you may not have a review ever.''

"To me, the theme is one kid, one community, one plan,'' added specialized probation officer Kenneth Williams. "Try to get the community involved with these kids. The crimes may be the same, but the kids are different, different situations, different backgrounds and we're trying to address those issues.''

According to national statistics, 20 to 25 percent of all cases involved with the juvenile justice system have mental health needs.

The goal of this new court is to fully recuperate those children in Chatham County and turn them into law-abiding citizens.

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