When a minor faces criminal charges, he or she becomes involved in the juvenile justice system. As a parent, your priority at this point is to protect your child’s future and make sure he or she understands the consequences of theft, drug possession and other Texas criminal actions.

If you learn that a Texas police officer has arrested your son or daughter, take these steps to guide your child through this difficult experience.

Understand the charge

Texas categorizes juvenile crimes as either delinquent conduct, which includes actions that would result in jail time for an adult, or as conduct in need of supervision. The latter category includes actions that would not be criminal for an adult, such as skipping school or running away from home.

Seek legal help

When a child receives a referral to juvenile court, he or she has the same rights as an adult charged with a crime. This includes the right to legal representation. A probation officer will manage your child’s case and make sure he or she can access rehabilitation programs as appropriate.

Know what to expect

The judge in your county will make a determination based on the crime involved, whether your child has a previous criminal record, his or her mental or physical health and well-being, the level of supervision available in your home and the necessary services available in your jurisdiction.

He or she can decide to release the child to your custody or detain him or her in the juvenile justice facility. Some children qualify for a special needs diversionary program, which provides services at home or in the community instead of at a juvenile detention facility.

Fight for rights

Children detained in a juvenile facility have rights. They must receive permission to keep in touch with parents by phone or in person, receive an education and have access to health care.

No parent wants to learn that his or her minor child has committed a criminal act. However, taking steps now to seek rehabilitation can prevent more significant legal problems with harsh consequences when he or she is an adult.