What Is The Youth Aid Panel?
The Youth Aid Panel offers participating police departments another alternative for dealing with first-time/minor juvenile offenses. Youth Aid Panels are staffed by trained community members who offer first time juvenile offenders a second chance by hearing cases referred by the police. Panels recommend resolutions that could include community service projects, acts of restitution, educational and family activities, etc. The Youth Aid Panel that serves our township was established in 2006. The nine member panel consists of trained volunteers from the townships of West Vincent, East Vincent, East Pikeland, West Pikeland, East Coventry and Spring City.
Youth Aid Panels are not a part of the juvenile justice system, but consist of trained volunteer community members. Panelists are screened by the local police departments, and trained by the staff of Center for Resolutions and Juvenile Court.
The panel is not a court of law and does not determine guilt of innocence. Juvenile offenders must acknowledge their involvement in the offense and the youth and his/her parent(s)/guardian(s) must agree to accept the Youth Aid Panel as an alternative to resolving the problem. At any time during the panel process the youth or his/her parent(s) may end the process and choose to have the case turned back to the police.
Panel members are volunteers who are chosen for their interest in youth, their non-political aspirations, and ideally represent diversity in age, occupation, race, and gender.
A panel will usually meet once a month but may choose to meet more often depending on caseload.
- Panel members receive training in:
- Chester County juvenile justice system
- Role of juvenile police officer
- Interviewing techniques and counseling
- Values clarification
- Dispositional alternative available
- Victim impact
Police officers, elected officials, and their immediate families are ineligible to become panelists but are welcome to volunteer to help the panel in other ways.
Youth offenders are seen by the panel and are generally charged with first-time summary or misdemeanor offenses.
The youth or the youth’s parents/guardian may opt for the Panel as opposed to Juvenile or District Court, but only if the panel is offered at the discretion of the juvenile officer or other designated police officers.
- To prevent the youth from becoming more deeply involved in delinquent behaviors, the juvenile justice system and possible costly detentions.
- To attempt to understand the “cause” of the offense and to help his/her family resolve the problem.
- To provide a means of an amicable resolution for the victim.
- To provide a means to increase the accountability and responsibility of youths for their actions.
- To hold the juvenile responsible to both the victim and community through completion of panel imposed obligations.
- The panel system is less costly to the public, saving taxpayers court related expenses.
- Fewer problems with youth in the community.
- Less costly to the parents of the youth, who usually pay any fines incurred.
- Provides a forum for positive change.
- Time saving to all participants. Cases are usually heard in a timely manner, unlike the overburdened judicial system.
- Enables the youth to become more connected to the community as well as teaching personal responsibility.
- Fewer repeat offenders.
- The youth and family will understand that they live in a community that cares and accepts responsible resolutions for criminal behavior.
- Acknowledges the individuals/community affected by the crime and encourages their participation.
- Increases awareness about local community resources.
- Successful completion of the program allows the youth to avoid a formal juvenile record.
Commonly Asked Questions About the Youth Aid Panel Program
What qualifications are needed to become a Youth Aid Panelist?
Any person interested in helping the youth in his/her own participating community (through residence or employment) is eligible to apply for panel membership. Panelists are chosen for the ability to commit their time, for their nonpolitical aspirations, and for their willingness to become involved in their community. Police officers, elected officials, and their immediate families are ineligible to serve as panelists. If you are interested in serving on our Youth Aid Panel, please contact Chief Swininger for an application. Chief Swininger can be reached Monday thru Friday at 610-458-3205 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
How much time is involved?
Trained panelists can expect to spend three to four hours a month performing panel duties. Panelists are asked for a one-year commitment of services to the YAP program that can be renewed by the panelist.
When are the trainings held and where do they take place?
It is a two-week program usually held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Trainings take place at The Center for Resolutions unless otherwise informed.
When are the panel meetings held and where to they take place?
Panel meetings are held in the evening at a prearranged time at the West Vincent Township meeting room.
How can I become a panelist?
Call or email the police department for an application. All prospective panelists are required to fill out an application and undergo a criminal background check. All applicants will be notified by mail once the arrangements for training have been made.