Should I call 911?
Calling the police on your own child is a difficult thing to do. Most parents try to do everything they can before picking up the phone and dialing 911. Parents often feel ashamed about their youth's behavior because they feel they should be able to control it on their own. Some parents fear they will be criticized for not parenting properly and having an ‘out-of-control’ teenager.
Parents also fear for their teen's well-being if they call the police. They worry about how the police will respond to them and what will happen if they go to detention. Most parents do not want their child to have a criminal record.
Nonetheless, many parents do finally call the police when other responses and resources have not stopped the violence and it is becoming more dangerous. Many parents report that the violence did not stop until they called the police, stating it was the best decision they made because their teens finally took it seriously and were mandated to get the help they needed.
Calling 911 may be critical for immediate safety reasons and is the fastest way to get help when your teen is hurting people. The police can help to calm the situation, protect family members and refer you to services. If the court becomes involved, it is a way to get help for your teen when he or she has refused needed services.
Here is important information about calling 911:
- You can call the police if your teen is physically violent (including, but not limited to pushing, shoving, grabbing, kicking, hitting or any physical contact that is hurtful), violent with property (throwing things, hitting/punching/kicking doors, walls, cars, or destroying property of any kind), threatening to hurt or kill a person or pets. (See Washington State Domestic Violence Law)
- Many parents are concerned about their youth having a criminal record if they call the police. King County Juvenile Court has a mission to help youth and families obtain needed services when they come to court. There are several options for youth to avoid a criminal charge if they participate in required counseling services. First and second time misdemeanor offenses are referred to ‘diversion’, where charges are not filed if the youth completes recommended services. Additional offenses may have other options for avoiding a criminal charge or having charges dropped.
- If your teen goes to detention in King County and you have safety concerns about your teen coming home from detention, the court can help you by requiring your teen participate in developing a Safety Plan with Step-Up staff, before he or she is released from detention.
- The King County Juvenile Court Prosecutor’s office has a Victim Advocate who will assist you if your youth is referred to the court. (See victim advocates and DV charges.)
- Calling 911 sends an important message to teens that violence toward family members is against the law. When teens continue to be violent in their home without police or court response, they get the message that family violence is not as concerning as other types of violence. This promotes a belief system that family violence is not a serious matter.
- You have a right to call the police anytime you fear for the safety of yourself or other family members. It is not easy to call the police on your child. You may feel guilty and worried about what will happen to him or her. You may be afraid of how he or she will respond. However, safety is the most important consideration when deciding to call 911.