The juvenile courts are disciplined by Royal Decree n° 1404 of 20 July 1934 with subsequent amendments. They are set up under each of the twenty-six appeal courts and three detached appeal courts divisions, thus numbering twenty-nine. There is one in all capitals of Regions (except Aosta) and in a number of other cities of particular importance (Brescia, Bolzano, Lecce, Catanzaro, Salerno, Messina, Catania, Caltanissetta, Sassari).
The Juvenile Court is a body specialized in its composition (it decides by a bench made up of two professional judges and two honorary judges who are experts in the human sciences) and in its civil, penal and administrative powers. In the civil sphere its competences have to do with protection of the person of the child in potential situations of prejudice or abandonment, and resulting measures may lead to restrictions on the exercise of parental power, to adoption and to the disciplining of the custody of children disputed between unmarried parents. In administrative spheres it takes measures for rehabilitative purposes in relation to juveniles displaying behavioural irregularities (including juveniles engaging in prostitution). Finally, in the penal sphere, it judges people for crimes committed when they were not yet eighteen.
Challenges to rulings by the Juvenile Court are considered by the Juvenile Division of the Appeal Court, by a specialized bench made up of three professional judges and two honorary judges.
THE JUVENILE COURTS AND INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION
By Law n° 476/1998, which amended Law n° 184 of 4 May 1983 on adoption, the tasks of the juvenile courts in relation to international adoption were considerably reduced. Their role is nonetheless still equally important, and they are one of the necessary protagonists in the adoption procedure.
The following tasks are devolved on the juvenile courts:
- Receiving and registering the “declaration of availability” of couples aspiring to international adoption;
- Forwarding this declaration within 15 days of receipt to the area social services;
- Once the report from the services is received, assessing it and if appropriate providing for further investigation;
- Calling aspirants to adoption to a hearing;
- Declaring by decree – within two months of receipt of the report from the social services – the presence or absence of the requirements on couples requesting adoption;
- Forwarding the decree to the Commission for Intercountry Adoption;
- Once the couple has received a child abroad in adoption or in fostering with a view to adoption, giving effect in Italy to the foreign provision, as definitive adoption or as pre-adoptive fostering;
- After at least one year’s fostering, decreeing the adoption of a foreign child in pre-adoptive fostering.