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Juvenile Defense Attorneys and Family Engagement: Same Team, Different Roles

Published Aug 5, 2014, National Juvenile Defender Center

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When a child gets arrested, the entire family is implicated and some family members are even brought into the juvenile court process along with that child.

For families, this can be a difficult and confusing experience. For defenders, there is often a tension between upholding the legal and ethical obligations they owe to their child-client and responding to the needs of their clients’ families. This can result in an adversarial relationship between defenders and families that is often unnecessary and potentially damaging to the defense case and the child.

The reality is, however, that in the vast majority of cases when families adequately understand the role and responsibilities of the defense attorney and defenders are sensitive to the family’s needs, the two can work together as a team to create the best outcomes for youth accused of crimes. 

This publication, geared towards both juvenile defenders and the families of their young clients, provides an explanation of the roles family members and defenders play in a child’s case; emphasizes the importance of both sides understanding the other’s role; maps out the benefits of collaboration between defense attorneys and young clients’ families; and outlines the opportunities for family and attorney collaboration throughout the duration of a child’s delinquency case.

Reform areas: Juvenile indigent defense

Categories: Family engagement, Juvenile indigent defense

Uploaded Aug 7, 2014


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.