In a prior blog article we referred to a recent report from the State of Connecticut about Adam Lanza, the 20-year old who shot and killed his mother and killed 6 adults and 20 first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some of his bizarre behavior is mentioned in our prior blog. Suppose Adam was a teenager. How can parents get help for their teenager exhibiting concerning mental health behavior and who is fascinated with guns, violence, violent video games and has threatened to harm others?

1. Schools have to be very attuned to reports of minors threatening others with violence, reports of their wanting to shoot others, drawings which depict people being shot, and social media threats of violence to other students. If they do get such a report, they will certainly have a conference with the minor and their parent/s at a minimum. Depending on the type of threat, they may immediately report the threat to the police. The police will likely arrest the minor and search their home for weapons and evidence of an intent to harm others. The minor will likely be detained at Juvenile Hall pending court hearings and a request for a psychological evaluation will be made. The parents might immediately have the minor hospitalized in a mental health facility for juveniles pending further court proceedings.

If your child is having behavioral and other concerning problems at home, you can request in writing to the school for an IEP (Individual Education Plan) evaluation to see if they qualify for special education services. Those services could encompass counseling and a behavior support plan at school. County Mental Health would have a unit for juveniles and their services could be requested. Very intelligent kids do also qualify for special education services due to qualifying categories. If you cannot get an IEP, the school may implement a 504 plan for your child. In the 5th grade, Adam Lanza wrote a story about a Granny who shot people with a gun in her cane. In 7th grade his teacher spoke about his preoccupation with violence. These observations by teachers were concerning and certainly warranted more intensive services for Adam and his family before they mushroomed.

2. Remove any guns or other weapons your minor could possibly access in your home or a relatives home. Any weapons must be in a very secure gun locker with the minor having no possible access. If your minor is making threats to harm others, it will be important to remove all guns from the house. If your minor is arrested and detained in Juvenile Hall, it is very likely a judge will not permit him or her back home if there are guns in the home even if they are in a secure locker.

3. Avail yourself of any psychological and psychiatric services for your minor that you can obtain through your health insurance. Parents can have their minors hospitalized for mental health services. They can also arrange for residential placements for their minors. Residential placements can be very expensive if done privately. If there is juvenile court jurisdiction Probation and Social Service Departments can also arrange for residential placements at a substantial reduction in cost to the families.

4. If you have done the above and you are still very concerned about your minor, call the Child Abuse Hotline to report that your minor has serious emotional and behavioral issues and you are concerned they will harm themselves or other kids in the home. A social worker will be assigned to interview you and the minor. The social worker can explain what services, if any, they can provide to help the minor and the family.

5. If your minor is assaulting you or other members in the family, committing vandalism in the home, stealing, threatening bodily harm and is beyond control, call the police and have them arrested and detained in Juvenile Hall. Like with adults, a little juvenile hall time can do wonders to get them to agree to take their medication and agree to see their therapists on a regular basis. Further, they know if they get into more trouble they will be facing more custody. Your minor can get their record sealed when they successfully complete their probation and reach the age of majority. Probation officers and the courts can do wonders to assist you in getting services and mental health treatment for your minor. If needed they can arrange for a residential home for the minor. If your minor is determined to continue to get into more trouble, they have the sanctions of more severe custody time. It is better for your minor to get their misbehavior out of their system when they are juveniles before they reach adulthood.

6. If you have the above control problems of your minor and are at a loss what to do or where to turn, consult with a knowledgeable attorney who is familiar with juvenile delinquency and dependency law in your area.

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