The California Association of Youth Courts was incorporated in February 2008. The Association was created by a number of leaders in the California youth court movement to assist in the development and expansion of these important programs. The formation of the Association also was supported by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.
The California Association of Youth Courts was created solely for the purpose of facilitating the exchange of information between emerging and existing California Youth Courts. Youth Courts currently exist in about half of the counties in California. They serve as an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system. In most cases a juvenile offender admits to a low-level criminal offense, but the Youth Court jury determines the applicable punishment. Youth Courts have different styles of operation depending on the legal culture of a particular county. The primary activities of the Association are to help in the formation of new youth courts and help existing courts do their work more effectively.
Most of the Association’s training work is done at an annual Youth Court conference where adult and student trainers meet with people interested in forming a Youth Court or who wish to expand or improve an existing program. Best practices and trends are exchanged through a variety of speakers and written materials. It is hoped that having good information available will avoid the inevitable mistakes of “trial and error” in “re-inventing the wheel.” The annual conference alternates between Northern and Southern California. The Association also connects new courts with some of the more experienced courts, which, in turn, offer on-site consulting services to a particular court. These individualized trainings occur throughout the year and throughout the State of California. Eventually, the Association will create a comprehensive website where member courts and the public can access training information and establish links with other youth courts in California.