Develop plan for organizing and cultivating the support of the community


  • research teen court concept and gather information on various programs
  • secure support from local chief juvenile judge
  • identify key stakeholders
  • develop preliminary informational packet
  • initiate contact with key stakeholders
  • make presentations to community organizations about teen court program
  • develop strategies for maintaining community involvement and support

Teen court programs are administered and operated by various agencies and organizations in the community, and rely heavily on community resources.

Therefore, community involvement and support is essential throughout the conception, development, and life of the teen court program to assure the delivery of effective services and the financial security of the program.

Conduct needs and resources assessment.


  • recruit members with knowledge and skills needed during the development and implementation process
  • develop action plan for program development and implementation
  • create subcommittees to address specific issues (e.g., target population, referral procedure, funding, marketing)
  • conduct thorough needs and resources assessment

Involving representatives from various areas of expertise helps bring fresh and diverse perspectives to the development and implementation process, thus yielding more reliable and credible information on which to build a foundation. Tasks can be divided and distributed among committee members, allowing an opportunity for more contacts to be made and more resources in the community to be discovered.

Conduct needs and resources assessment.


  • determine the type of information to be gathered
  • identify possible data sources
  • establish a mechanism for collection, organizing and storing data
  • determine how results will be used

Teen courts must meet local needs to be accepted and supported. A thorough needs and resources assessment will provide information helpful to decision-making throughout the development and implementation of the program. Information gathered can also help market the program and provide good baseline information for program evaluation.

Examine legal issues.


  • determine jurisdictional requirements for authorization to operate
  • examine and resolve due process issues
  • examine and resolve confidentiality issues
  • examine and resolve liability issues

There are no uniform, national laws, or guidelines for teen court programs. Therefore, teen court program startup efforts should include a thorough search of state law to identify basic jurisdictional authority for operation and to ensure compliance with special teen court legislation in the future.

Secure funding for the teen court program.


  • create a program budget
  • establish a standard accounting procedure
  • identify possible sources of in-kind and monetary support
  • develop a funding plan

Teen court programs vary according to the amount of funding needed to operate. Many teen court programs report that it is a constant struggle to obtain adequate funding, so program organizers and staff should be prepared to devote considerable time and resources to fund raising efforts on an ongoing basis.

Hire teen court program staff.


  • determine how program will be staffed
  • develop job descriptions and application process
  • develop method for evaluation of staff performance
  • recruit and hire new staff
  • develop strategy for professional development for staff

Teen courts have many moving parts and depend heavily on volunteers; however, to assure program accountability, someone must be designated to oversee and coordinate the operations and services of the program.

Determine the function, program model, and procedure of the teen court hearings.


  • determine if the teen court hearings will serve a sentencing function only or if they also will determine guilt and innocence
  • determine if hearings will follow a trial model or peer jury model (as outlined in Chapter 1)
  • write a courtroom protocol


By determining the function, program model, and procedure the teen court will follow, programs will be able to state the:

  • primary purpose of the teen court hearings (i.e., sentencing only, determination of guilt or innocence);
  • types of volunteers needed to conduct the teen court hearing; and
  • sequence of events of the teen court hearings.

Develop a program purpose, goals and objectives.


  • determine deficiencies or areas of need in community that can be addressed by teen court
  • develop program purpose
  • develop program goals
  • develop program objectives that are specific, measurable, and results-oriented

The development of a program purpose, goals and objectives provides a foundation upon which other program elements can be defined (e.g., target population, program services). Carefully articulated goals and measurable objectives offers agencies a mechanism that can help programs remain focused on what they are trying to achieve and evaluate results.

Determine offender target population and referral process.


  • solicit input from stakeholders
  • identify underserved juvenile offender populations
  • identify any guidelines and constraints (e.g., statute or agency policy) that affect the types of cases that can be diverted to a teen court
  • map flow of cases through the juvenile justice system
  • identify potential referral sources
  • establish referral criteria and develop referral form
  • inform and educate referral sources

Teen court programs cannot serve all juvenile offenders. To remain focused and deliver effective services, a teen court program should clearly define the target population it is designed to serve and establish a referral mechanism that will ensure it receives appropriate cases.

Design program services.


  • examine needs of youth, victims and the community
  • design sentencing options for offenders
  • design services for victims
  • design additional services for volunteers and community
  • identify agencies and organizations in the community that can provide services for the teen court program (e.g., community service sites, educational and counseling services)
  • negotiate and write interagency agreements or contracts with community agencies for services

The nature of teen court programs allows for considerable flexibility and creativity in determining the types of services and sentencing options that can be offered. Programs should strive to implement services that will offer maximum benefit to juvenile offenders, youthful volunteers, victims, and the community, while still adhering to the established goals of the program. By collaborating and coordinating with other service providers in the community, teen court programs can:

  • compensate for time and budgetary constraints of the teen court program; and
  • reduce role confusion and overlapping of services with other agencies and organization.

Develop public relations materials.


  • develop program logo/slogan
  • develop teen court program brochure
  • develop informational packet
  • develop video/slide show

Public relations materials are needed to help teen court program organizers and staff market and increase the visibility of the program and its services.

Develop a management information system (MIS) and effective case management practices.


  • establish a system for maintaining case files and program records
  • determine the type of information to be kept on defendants
  • develop program forms
  • establish intake process
  • establish procedure for docketing cases and assigning volunteers to teen court hearings
  • develop procedure for monitoring case progress after the jury’s verdict
  • develop a mechanism for tracking successful and unsuccessful termination of cases

Effective MIS and case management practices can help assure program accountability and integrity and provide a means for tracking data that can be useful in future program evaluation.

Determine when, where and how often teen court hearings will be held.


  • examine cases being referred (or expected to be referred) to the program
  • locate space for hearings (e.g., courtroom)
  • determine when (days/evenings) and how often hearings will be held (e.g., once a month, once a week)

It is essential that teen court programs have adequate space to conduct the teen court hearings. Two reasons that staff should give careful consideration to when and how often teen court hearings are held are:

  • to ensure that cases are docketed and heard in a timely manner; and
  • to allow for optimal participation from volunteers.

Recruit volunteers.


  • determine what adult and youth volunteer roles are necessary for the particular program model of teen court chosen
  • determine additional roles that adult and youth volunteers can perform for the teen court program
  • develop volunteer job descriptions
  • develop volunteer application and screening process
  • identify sources for recruiting volunteers
  • determine strategies and methods for recruiting volunteers
  • establish strategies for sustaining volunteer support

All teen courts rely on youth and/or adult volunteers to carry out roles during the actual teen court hearings; however, beyond that, the extent to which and the capacity in which volunteers are used among programs differs. Involving the community members in teen court programs in creative ways can help increase support and ownership of the program and can help reduce the workload of overburdened staff.

Develop volunteer training program.


  • identify types of training to be offered (i.e., preservice, orientation, in-service)
  • select training content
  • develop training materials
  • determine methods of training delivery
  • choose location and times of training
  • select training facilitators
  • develop method for evaluating training program

Training provides volunteers with the knowledge and skills needed to perform their assigned roles effectively and efficiently. It also provides volunteers with an opportunity for personal growth and enrichment.

Establish a method for program evaluation.


  • determine who will conduct the program evaluation
  • determine the specific research questions to be answered
  • determine the evaluation design to be used
  • determine the information needed to be collected and how information will be tracked
  • develop procedure for reporting information

Program evaluation:

  • improves the capacity of teen courts to successfully compete for limited public funds and support;
  • promotes agency and community accountability; and
  • creates a learning environment and contributes to organizational growth