The Court Unit is responsible for preparing many of the necessary documents to process a child through the court system. The juvenile probation officers in the court unit work with families, judges, defense attorneys, school officials, prosecutors, and other agencies in providing much of the preliminary material for these juvenile court hearings.
When a petition is formally filed by the District Attorney's office, the juvenile probation officer schedules a meeting with the family and the child to gather information for the social history. In the interview the juvenile probation officer seeks to determine the family's strengths, weaknesses and needs, as well as the family’s perspective about the child’s behavior, emotional status, home life, educational history and other relevant issues. Records are obtained including the child’s birth certificate, social security card, offense reports, medical reports, placement history, family financial status and school records to aid the court in making a proper disposition in the child’s case. The recommendation in the social history adheres to the Progressive Sanction model guidelines in Chapter 59 of the Texas Family Code. The report from the Juvenile Probation Department is independent of any position or opinion from the child’s defense attorney, parent, prosecutor, or other individual or agency.
Each child presented to the court must be represented by an attorney (See Texas Family Code 51.10). The family is required to hire an attorney to represent their child or apply and request assistance from the court to obtain a court appointed attorney. The court will inform the family of the necessary documentation to determine authorizing assistance. When an announcement hearing is set the prosecutors and defense attorneys review the case, including recommendations made by the Juvenile Probation Department. If an agreement is reached, a hearing may be set for an agreed adjudication. When an agreement cannot be reached a contested adjudication hearing may be set either to go before the Judge or a jury. At the adjudication hearing if the court finds the alleged conduct to be true, a disposition hearing will follow. During the disposition hearing the court reviews the detailed written report and recommendation completed by the court unit, along with the State and defense attorney’s recommendations, and all other documents permitted for review by the court.
The Court Unit may also be responsible for fingerprinting a child, completing any transfer paperwork for out of county or out of state cases, and completing sex offender registrations.
Once a case goes through the court process and the child is adjudicated, a field officer is assigned to monitor the child for the term of his or her juvenile probation supervision.