The SAJ is a public body which acts solely in a protective role. It is a regional public service created to advise and assist youths in difficulty or in danger, together with their families.
One of SAJ’s aims is work with youths and their families to find a solution to their problems so that youth judges don’t need to get involved.
There is a SAJ for each district (arrondissement).
Nothing may be done or decided without the agreement of the minors and/or parents involved following exchanges and negotiations.
After a first interview in which the aim is to explain the difficulties and problems experienced by the minor and their family, the SAJ may prepare certain proposals:
Persons convened or requesting assistance from SAJ are entitled to:
The SAJ ensures regular monitoring of the situation in coordination with associated services.
The assistance programme proposed by the youth assistance adviser is a contract negotiated with the parties involved, and is valid initially for one year.
The youth assistance adviser may send the file to the youth prosecutor in their district. Depending on the risk, the prosecutor may decide to refer the case to a youth court urgently, or to classify the file without follow-up.
Finally, the youth assistance adviser may refuse to grant assistance, or the parties involved may disagree with a part of the contract negotiated. An appeal may then be made to the youth court of the relevant district.
If it is noted that a child or youth is at risk, if their health or safety are threatened, if they or their parents do not accept assistance from the SAJ or refuse to implement the assistance programme, the case may be referred to the youth court and mandatory assistance measures may be imposed.
In the event of a judicial procedure, the parties will be summoned to the youth court. The minor is automatically appointed a lawyer to represent and assist them.
The family may choose to be assisted and represented by a lawyer.
The court’s decision is usually notified within 15 days following the hearing. The decision is valid for one year, but may be reviewed and/or modified if required.
The decision of the youth court may be appealed before the youth appeal court within 15 days.
It should be noted that the youth court’s decision is enforceable immediately and must then be respected by all parties until the court issues a decree containing any subsequent amendments.
Following the decision by the youth court, the Judicial Protection Service (SPJ) will intervene through the youth assistance director to implement the assistance measure ordered.
The SPJ is a specialised public assistance service that intervenes once the youth court has elected an assistance measure. Its role is to implement this measure.
Following the decision of the youth court, the SPJ director summons the minors and/or parents involved to explain the measure to them. The decision is still with the youth assistance director, who does not have get consent from the parties.
The family is assisted by a lawyer of their choice during this summons.
For example, the SPJ is involved in choosing a foster family or institution, depending on the decision taken by the youth court.
The director’s decisions must be reported to the parties in writing. Explanations, motivation and grounds for these decisions must be contained in the file that the parties can view in the SPJ (except for medical and psychological reports, court documents and confidential documents).
If the parties disagree with the director’s decision, they may file an appeal before the youth court.
If all the parties are in agreement again, ‘mandatory assistance’ may be changed to ‘accepted assistance’ after the agreement is ratified by the youth court. Based on this ratification, the youth assistance adviser may intervene again if necessary.
From the moment that the manager notes that there is no longer any danger or difficulties and the measure imposed by the court is no longer required, the manager may suggest to close the file. The manager may even suggest an agreement to the youth court for ratification and inform the youth assistance adviser.