7 Kids and the Law This guide is for children, parents, and guardians interested in what happens when the court becomes involved in their lives. It is also for professionals and nonprofessionals who want to know what might occur in various court pro- ceedings and how to use the court when a need arises. In the United States, parents have a constitutional right to raise their children without government interference. However, when there are allegations that a child has broken the law or is at risk in their home, the government becomes involved with the family. Most often the government brings these cases to the juvenile court based on laws specific to children and their families. Children come to the attention of the juvenile court for different reasons, based on different allegations. Some may have run away, or their parent or guardian may have been unable to manage them in the home. Some may have been tru- ant from school. Others may have broken the law by acting in ways that harm other people or their property. And some may have been harmed by adults and come to the attention of the court for that reason. These are the most common ways that the court becomes involved in the life of the child and the child’s family. In other cases, minors (children under 18) may seek court approval in adult court for an abortion and parents or guardians may seek hospitalization or other care for their child for mental health and/or substance use reasons. In this guide, the term “juvenile court” is used to refer to courts involved with children. These courts exist to serve the best interests of the child, acting in a parent-like role. For this reason, the juvenile court process is more informal than adult court. The laws relating to children are the same throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, different courts may use slightly different processes for dealing with juvenile matters. In contrast to adult court sessions, which are open to the public, juvenile sessions are closed.The juvenile court is more pro- tective of the privacy of the child and family than the adult court. Only family members, court personnel, and other professionals directly involved with the case are permitted in the courtroom. Introduction