Multi-disciplinary teams that include social work professionals allow juvenile defense offices to employ more holistic, cost-effective strategies to ensure clients receive the treatment and services they need.
The principles of holistic representation require that juvenile defenders not only prepare and litigate the legal aspects of cases in the courtroom, but also be prepared to address the underlying causes that bring troubled children into the delinquency system, such as mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency, co-occurring disorders, developmental disability, homelessness, and abuse and trauma. To meet this requirement, and to better address the underlying causes of criminal or delinquent behaviors, juvenile defense offices should integrate social workers, and in-house specialists such as resource attorneys who specialize in mental health and educational advocacy into their practice model.
In line with these principles, Colorado passed a law in 2014 requiring the State Public Defender to hire social workers for juvenile cases.
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