This procedure relates to young people displaying challenging or difficult behaviours.


When to use this procedure

When providing statutory supervision and support to young people who are exhibiting unacceptable behaviours.


Practice context and legislation

  • Appropriate and consistent management of young people's behaviours is crucial to ensure:
    • the best outcomes for young people
    • compliance with rights and responsibilities
    • worker safety.
  • Consistent approaches to unacceptable behaviour set the scene for young people and all future involvement they may have with youth justice and related services.
  • The objective is to reduce behaviours that are a risk to the young person, further offending and community safety.
  • At the start of a court order, clearly inform the young person what behaviour is appropriate, what is expected of them during the course of the order and during supervision. This includes:
    • requirements of the order
    • their rights and responsibilities
    • possible consequences for non-compliance.
  • To promote appropriate behaviour, ask the young person and the worker to sign a standard contract outlining rights and responsibilities.
  • This sets clear boundaries and clarifies the possible consequences for unacceptable behaviour.
  • Staff modelling of respectful and appropriate behaviours is an essential component of youth justice work, and demonstrates to young people what actions to follow.

Roles and key tasks

Youth justice case manager

  • Provide case management and supervision.
  • Implement and monitor special conditions.
  • Initiate warning and breach processes as necessary.

Team leader / team manager

  • Provide consultation and supervision to case manager.
  • Issue warnings and authorise breach action as necessary.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program.
  • Provide case consultation regarding youth justice centre order recommendations, breaches and young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation regarding court recommendations, breaches and young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director or Manager Individual Family Support and the Senior Practice Advisor.

The procedure in detail

Youth justice culture

Team leaders and team managers are responsible for ensuring all staff understand the practice and procedures for managing young people's behaviour.

Staff-to-staff reinforcement of appropriate case management techniques occurs during:

  • formal, informal and/or live supervision
  • role modelling
  • mentoring
  • file audits
  • team meetings
  • team-building sessions
  • staff meetings
  • staff training
  • performance development recognition program
  • progression performance and development system.

See also the procedure on 'Engaging young people'.

Model by example

Youth justice workers at all levels must act as positive role models by demonstrating reliability, consistency, honesty, confidentiality and showing respect for young people and colleagues at all times.

Expectations are spelt out and reinforced in the rights and responsibilities contract.

Rights and responsibilities contract

Discuss the rights and responsibilities contract with the young person:

  • Clarify behavioural boundaries.
  • Reinforce that the rights and responsibilities contract applies to both the young person and the youth justice worker.
  • The rights and responsibilities contract is to be signed by the young person and the youth justice worker.
  • Give the young person the original signed copy of the contract.
  • File a signed copy on the young person's file on the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS).
  • Inform the young person that the rights and responsibilities contract will be reviewed if they demonstrate unacceptable behaviours.

Define behaviour

Inform the young person they are expected to behave respectfully towards all staff and other young people while attending a youth justice office or other services relating to their supervisory orders.

Tell the young person that intimidating or threatening behaviour will not be tolerated.

As specifically as possible, define unacceptable behaviour. For example, the young person must not attend appointments, supervision or activities affected by drugs or alcohol or carrying weapons.

Inform the young person that failure to observe these boundaries may result in a warning being issued.

Advise the young person of the possible consequences of non-compliance with the core and special conditions of their order. Ensure they understand that failure to comply can result in a return to court.

Termination of an appointment, supervision or activity

Tell the young person that an appointment, supervision or activity may be terminated if, after a verbal warning from a youth justice representative, their unacceptable behaviour continues.

Inform the young person that an appointment, supervision or activity will be terminated immediately if there is any threat of violence or a weapon present, and any criminal behaviour could result in police charges.

Risk assessment

During the assessment and planning phase, determine the young person's common behaviours, and the risk they pose.

Use the risk assessment worksheet for contact with the young person in the Staff safety in the workplace guidelines.

This assessment determines whether appointments must occur in the office, or if they can be conducted in an outreach setting.

Understanding individual behaviour in young people

Assess what behaviour is usual for the young person and set boundaries accordingly.

Be responsive to the varying stages of adolescent development and differences between individuals. For example, a young person's level of maturity may be below their chronological age.

Be aware of factors that may influence a young person's behaviour, such as substance misuse, mental health issues, recent family events or the presence of peers.

Office-based appointments

Until assessment planning and/or a risk assessment is completed, conduct all appointments at the youth justice office or other office-based or public location.


Based on assessment planning and/or risk assessment, consult with the team leader to determine whether outreach appointments are appropriate.

If a young person who has been assessed as suitable for outreach visits demonstrates unpredictable or unacceptable behaviour, terminate the visit immediately and arrange for future appointments to be in the office.

If there is risk

If the level of risk is assessed as high, or the young person is known to be volatile or unpredictable, consider the following strategies:

  • Inform the team leader and/or unit manager/area manager of appointment details.
  • Remove any items from the room that can be thrown, such as coffee cups.
  • Arrange for a colleague or the team leader to wait outside the meeting room during the appointment.
  • Arrange for a colleague or the team leader to be present during the appointment.
  • Wear a duress alarm.
  • Where available, ask security staff to wait outside the meeting room during the appointment.
  • Alert reception staff of the appointment.

Warnings – formal and informal

Informal warnings

If a young person presents unacceptable behaviours, remind them of their rights and responsibilities and the agreed boundaries.

If unacceptable behaviours continue, tell the young person that any further demonstration of unacceptable behaviours will result in a formal warning being issued.

Formal warnings

If unacceptable behaviours continue, consult with your team leader and initiate the warning process if appropriate. See procedure for 'Warning process for community based orders'.

Supervision with team leader

Formal, informal and/or live supervision supports the allocated worker to identify and manage the young person's behavioural issues.

Case managers are responsible for identifying the young person's behavioural issues and raising theses concerns with their team leaders during supervision sessions and seeking support and feedback.

Discuss in supervision:

  • management techniques for challenging young people
  • setting clear boundaries for future supervision appointments with the young person
  • learning and professional development opportunities.

It is the team leader's role to monitor the relationship between the worker and the young person and to consider reallocation of young people if necessary and appropriate.


Use informal and/or formal debriefing to help manage workplace stress associated with challenging behaviours.

Critical Incident Response Management (CIRM) and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are available for formal debriefing.


If a young person's behaviour poses danger or causes an injury to a youth justice worker, complete a Disease Injury Near Miss Accident (DINMA) report.

Incident reporting

If a young person engages in unacceptable behaviour, consult with the team leader who will determine if an incident report needs to be prepared. Refer to the procedure for 'Critical incident management of a young person'.

CRIS alerts

As required, record a behavioural alert in CRIS to inform youth justice and other program areas of risk posed by a young person's behaviour.

Depending on the level of the alert, permission may be required from the youth justice team leader or team manager.