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Getting your teen help

Learn more about getting help for your family. 

 If you live with someone under the age of 18 who is behaving violently in the home, there are services that can help.

Get help without a criminal charge

Family Intervention and Restorative Services (FIRS)

FIRS is for youth arrested for violence toward their family members. This program uses processes outside of the courts or criminal charges.

Learn more about the FIRS Program

At-Risk Youth (ARY) petition 

This civil petition does not include criminal charges. The juvenile court can make requirements for the youth to follow, including counseling (such as attending Step-Up), attending school, and other needed expectations.

Learn more about the At-Risk Youth Program

Family crisis resources

Other resources, including referrals to the Children's Crisis Outreach Response program, are available through Crisis Connections by dialing 211.

Learn more about King County 211 services 

What to do if your teen is acting violently

It can be dangerous to try to stop a teen while they are acting violently. The most important thing is to keep yourself and other family members safe. 

Here are safety tips to prevent the situation from escalating and to decrease risk of harm to other family members.

  • Do not continue the argument or discussion.  Most violence begins with abusive language, so separating at the start of verbal abuse can prevent the escalation to violence.
  • Do not physically engage
  • Separate yourself and other family members from the teen who is violent
  • Go to another room or leave the house
  • If you stay in your home, stay in an area with an exit
  • Stay away from the kitchen or other areas where weapons might be available
  • Do not engage with your teen again until they are calm and you feel safe with them
  • If there are guns in your home, remove them until you feel safe around your teen
  • Make a safety plan about how you will respond the next time your teen is violent
  • If your teen’s violence is escalating and you are concerned about the safety of family members, call for help:
    • Calling 911 is the fastest way to get help (see Calling the police)
    • If it is a mental health crisis, you can also call the King County 24-hour Crisis Line at 866-427-4747  (866-4CRISIS) or visit this website for  24-hour Crisis Line Information

What to say to your teen

  • Let your teen know ahead of time how you plan to respond if they are violent, such as:
    “Any time your behavior is not safe, or I am worried you might become hurtful, I will separate from you until you    are calmed down. Our home needs to be a safe place for everyone. If it becomes dangerous, I will call for emergency help. I don’t want anyone in our family to be hurt.”
  • Be specific with your teen about the behaviors that will prompt you to disengage, such as:
      • Physical violence or aggression
      • Yelling, screaming and swearing at people
      • Name calling or hurtful words
      • Threatening behavior

After a violent episode

  • When you are both calm, tell your teen that you want to make plan together to prevent violence from happening again. Plan what they can do instead of becoming aggressive toward family members.  You can use the Step-Up Safety Plan to help your teen make a plan to prevent violence.
  • This is an opportunity to ask your teen to attend Step-Up or other services or to  ask for help from current providers.
  • If your teen refuses to participate in needed services, you may want to consider an At-Risk Youth Petition through which your teen can be required to go to counseling.Learn more about filing an At-Risk Youth Petition 
Follow this plan every time your teen becomes verbally abusive or violent. Most parents say this was helpful to get their teen to stop the abuse and violence. 





Calling the police

Calling the police on your child is a difficult thing to do.  Most parents do everything they can before dialing 911.

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. 

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.

Other parents are afraid it will make their teen angrier with them and they will retaliate, making the violence worse.

Many parents report that the violence did not stop until they called the police, because their teens finally took it seriously and were more motivated to get the help they needed.

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.

King County Juvenile Court has an alternative to detention and court processing for youth with domestic violence offenses in the family called FIRS.

Learn more about FIRS


What will happen if you call 911

You have a right to call the police anytime you fear for the safety of yourself or other family members. Safety is the most important consideration when deciding to call 911.

You can call the police if your teen is physically violent, including, but not limited to:

  • Pushing, Shoving, Grabbing
  • Kicking, Hitting, Any physical contact that is hurtful
  • Being 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 pet               

If you call the police, the officers who respond will talk to you about what happened and talk to your teen. They determine if a crime has occurred and decide whether to do one of the following:

  1. Talk to your teen, but not arrest them.
  2. Write a police report, but not take your teen to detention. They send the police report to the Prosecutor's office. Later you will hear from the court about next steps.
  3. Take your teen to detention, where there may be an option for them to go to the FIRS Center, an overnight respite center instead of detention.
  • Most youth arrested for domestic violence go to the FIRS Center and are not charged with a crime.
  • If your youth goes to the FIRS Center, a FIRS Social Worker will call you the next morning to talk to you about FIRS services and schedule a meeting with you and your youth.
  • If your youth goes into detention, there will be a hearing the next day, or Monday if it is the weekend. Parents are asked to attend that hearing to determine when the youth will be released back home. 

Most parents have mixed feelings when their teen is arrested, including feeling guilty, shocked, tearful, and like they are a bad parent. Most parents in the Step-Up Program say that calling the police was one of the hardest but most beneficial decisions they have ever made for their child. They often say that their teens’ abusive behavior decreased after the arrest.

Domestic violence law

This information is a summary of the laws, but not the full legal statutes.

Access the full legal statutes Get more information about domestic violence resources


Family/Household members

On July 1st, 2022, Washington State Domestic Violence Law changed to expand the definition of family/household member. It now includes children, intimate partners of parents, the intimate partner’s children, and legal guardians. 


In Washington State, domestic violence is a crime that requires the police to arrest the person if they are 18 or older when there is “probable cause”.

If the person is younger than 18, the police make a decision about arrest based on their discretion. But, for youth who are 16 or 17, if an officer has probable cause to believe they committed a domestic violence crime within the prior four hours, the officer must arrest if the parent or guardian requests an arrest.

Assault of a family or household member

In Washington, assault is defined as an intentional touching of another person that is harmful or offensive regardless of if any physical injury is caused. An assault can also be any physical action intended to cause another person to reasonably fear bodily injury or death (even if there was no intent to actually inflict bodily injury.)

Harassment of a family or household member

In Washington, harassment is defined as to knowingly and unlawfully threaten to do one of the following:

  • Cause bodily injury in the future to another person
  • Cause physical damage to another’s property
  • Subject another person to physical confinement or restraint
  • Maliciously to do any act which is intended to substantially harm another person with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety.

Malicious Mischief

In Washington,  malicious mischief if if someone knowingly and intentionally causes physical damage to the property of another.

Interfering with Reporting Domestic Violence

In Washington, this is defined as when a person commits a crime of domestic violence and then prevents or attempts to prevent the victim or witness from calling 911, getting medical help,  or making a report to law enforcement.