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Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families

Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services

Dispositional Guidelines For Juveniles


The Committee on Dispositional Guidelines for Juveniles (10 Del. C. § 1008) is responsible for developing guidelines for use in determining dispositions of juvenile offenders. The guidelines must include clear, consistent, and objective criteria for determining that the rehabilitation plan for a youth should include a period of secure incarceration. It was the intent of the General Assembly in creating the Committee on Dispositional Guidelines for Juveniles that only chronic or violent juvenile offenders require secure incarceration, and the other adjudicated youth are more appropriately and effectively served through less restrictive programs.

The Dispositional Guidelines provide assurance that the community will be protected from the violence-prone offender. At the same time, the guidelines promote consistency in standards, accountability of the offenders to the system, accountability of the system to the state and the public, and predictability of treatment and sanction. The Dispositional Guidelines are based on the following guiding principles:

Dispositions for juvenile offenders should provide culturally sensitive treatment within a setting that does not place unnecessary restrictions on their freedom and their access to normal life, consistent with the safety of the juvenile and the community, and effective rehabilitation.

The family of the juvenile offender should serve, inasmuch as practical, as the primary support and resource in the treatment and supervision of the offender.

Dispositions for the juvenile offenders should be based on assessment of the seriousness of the adjudicated offense, past delinquency history, probability of the juvenile representing a risk to society, and the juvenile’s individual characteristics and needs. Judicial decisions should be guided by a structured yet flexible system for classifying juveniles on each of these factors. More detailed service and treatment plans should be based on an integrated multisystem assessment of the juvenile and the family. The selection of a specific program for a juvenile should also be informed by available research on the effectiveness of the programs available.


Effective rehabilitation services for juveniles require a range of program offerings, allowing for varying levels of intensity depending on the needs of the juvenile, The dispositional process balances the rehabilitative needs of the juvenile offender, past response to rehabilitative efforts, and the safety of the community in deciding the placement to a program level. The program level concept provides the following features:

Graduated Approach: The program levels reflect a graduated approach wherein increasingly intensive programming, based on risk and needs assessments, is developed for the juvenile.

Effective rehabilitation for violent or chronic offenders may require a period of treatment within a locked or staff secure program. The goal following a period of secure care should be to reintegrate such juveniles into the community, through gradually reducing the intensity and restrictiveness of their treatment program combined with effective aftercare services

Assessment and Presumptive Placement: All adjudicated youth are sentenced by court order to Level V, but placed at one of five (5) program levels based on the guidelines. The presumptive level of placement is based on:

  • the instant offense for which the juvenile is adjudicated (“charge level”);
  • aggravating factors including the juvenile’s prior record of delinquency and;
  • mitigating factors including the juvenile’s individual characteristics and needs.

An assessment is conducted by the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services for any youth who has a presumptive placement in secure care. This assessment is to be made, and the juvenile sentenced at the earliest possible time after the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent in order that the juvenile offender may have the earliest possible opportunity to undergo any and all additional needs assessment which the Court may order or DYRS may determine is appropriate.

Reaching a Presumptive Level: The Court accepts the offender’s plea or conducts a trial on the charges. The most serious adjudicated charge has a level of security (“charge level”) based on the classification of the offense. The prosecutor presents any applicable aggravating factors including the offender’s prior delinquency record. The defense counsel presents applicable mitigating factors including the offenderrsquo ;s individual characteristics and needs. The Court applies the aggravating and mitigating factors to adjust the charge level by one step, if necessary. The presumptive level is the charge level adjusted by the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors.

Court Ordered Placement: The Court shall consider the presumptive level and the proposed service plan in deciding the ordered level of placement. For staff secure (Level IV) and non-secure (Levels I-III) placements, the Court shall order a Level V commitment suspended for placement at the ordered level and program. The Court may order to Level V for an indefinite commitment pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 1009 ( c ) or a mandatory minimum pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 1009(e). Commitments to Levels IV and II are for the length of the program. The Court may order a specific length of time for probationary sentences at Levels II and I. The maximum discharge date is governed by 31 Del. C. § 5108.

There shall be five (5) levels of programs for juveniles in need of treatment. A description of the levels follows:

A. Non-Secure Programs

Non-Secure programs (Levels I-III) involve placement of the juvenile offender in the community under the supervision of a parent, community representative, private provider, or DYRS probation worker. The frequency of contacts and services provided increase with the Level of placement.

Level I Minimum Intensity Programs (Administrative Probation)

This level is appropriate for juveniles who have committed minor misdemeanor offenses but do not require supervision by a juvenile probation officer. Level I placements require an adequate family and/or community structure to monitor and notify the Court of violations. These offenders, who have been identified as low risk, may have failed at diversion programs or may not have met the criteria for diversion programs.

Dispositions to this level consist of fines and costs, restitution, counseling, community service, and education programs ordered by the Court and supervised by family or community members.

There is no DYRS involvement with these programs.

Level II Moderate Intensity Programs (Probation)

Level II Moderate Intensity Programs provide probation supervision and counseling services for juveniles with one of the following profiles:

  • Serious offense but low risk of reoffense
  • Moderate offense profile with low to moderate risk of reoffense
  • Low offense profile with moderate risk of reoffense

Level II programs are provided directly through DYRS juvenile probation staff or indirectly through DYRS contracted programs with community providers.

A juvenile ordered to Level II undergoes a risk and needs assessment by DYRS. The Division places the juvenile offender in one of two Level II programs:

Back on Track- A contracted community provider who coordinates a rehabilitative program which includes educational programs and community services. Level II Back on Track placements are monitored by a DYRS Case Manager.

Level II Probation- DYRS juvenile probation staff meet in regular intervals with the juvenile offender to monitor progress during the probationary period. Level II Probation can include outpatient treatment services, educational services and community service.

Level III Intensive Programs

Level III Intensive Programs are the highest level of non-secure community programs. Level III programs are characterized by close supervision and comprehensive services. Juveniles are assigned to the Intensive Program level based on an evaluation of their offense history, indicators of risk for reoffense, and treatment needs.

Level III programs include:

Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) Program in which a DYRS contracted provider works intensively with the juvenile, family, and community in addressing the root causes of the delinquent conduct. There is daily contact between the worker and the juvenile offender. Caseload for each worker is five juveniles and their families. Those eligible for MST must have sufficient family structure for therapy and must not be on a mandatory commitment under 10 Del. C. § 1009(e).

Additionally, MST may not be used for the following adjudicated offenses unless specifically ordered by the Court:

Assault 1 (11 Del. C.§ 613); Assault 2 (11 Del. C. § 612); Robbery 1 (11 Del. C. § 832); Offenses resulting in death including vehicular homicide (11 Del. C. §§ 630, 630A); Assault in a detention facility (11 Del. C. § 1254); Escape from a detention facility and Escape 2 (11 Del. C. § 1252); Possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony (11 Del. C. § 1447); Possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony (11 Del. C. § 1447A); Sexual Offenses (11 Del. C. § 761-779) where sex offender treatment is indicated.

Intensive Probation Services provided by DYRS probation staff and/or contracted providers.

Level III probation requires frequent one-on-one contact with the probation officer and may include the following services:

  • Intensive Homebased Services
  • Day Treatment
  • Group Homes
  • Specialized Foster or Mentor Homes
  • Residential Treatment Programs
  • Home confinement with electronic monitoring

Criteria for assignment to the Intensive Program level include a pattern of serious or chronic delinquency and a moderate risk of reoffense, or moderately serious delinquency combined with a high risk of reoffenses. Juveniles in Level IV or V placements may be assigned to the Intensive Programs as part of their transition and reintegration to the community following the secure care placement.

B. Secure Programs

Level IV Staff Secure Programs

Placement at Level IV involves a court-ordered commitment to an out-of-home placement. Staff secure programs involve 24 hour supervision of juveniles. Level IV under the Juvenile Dispositional Guidelines is analogous, but not identical, to Level IV quasi-incarceration programs under SENTAC Guidelines. A staff secure program is one in which the juvenile offender is in an out-of-home placement under the 24 hour supervision of the provider in a contained environment.

Prior to ordering an offender whose charge level is Level III, II, or I to a Level IV placement, the Court must obtain a recommendation from DYRS on the appropriateness of Multisystemic Therapy. DYRS will present an immediate recommendation for all youth who are active with DYRS. Sentencing shall be deferred not longer than ten days for those youth who are not active with DYRS to obtain a recommendation on the appropriateness of Multisystemic Therapy.

Level V Locked Secure Programs

Placement at the locked secure program level requires Court-ordered commitment to an out-of-home placement. Locked Secure Programs are the most restrictive rehabilitative programs available. A locked secure program is one in which the juvenile offender is under 24 hour supervision in a locked setting.

The Court decision to commit to a level V program shall be based on an assessment of the current offense, past delinquency history, probability of the juvenile representing a risk to society, and the juvenile’s individual characteristics and needs.

Level IV and Level V programs are indicated for juveniles who adjudicated offenses include at least one of the following offenses:

  • Level V: Felony A, B, and C
  • Level IV: Violent Felony D, E, and F

Placement at a Level IV or V is also appropriate for lesser offenses such as violations of probation (1) if the juvenile is non-amenable to a less restrictive placement, or (2) with a statement of reason for a more restrictive placement.