Current Issues

Addressing critical issues in youth defense

To ensure the right to counsel is fulfilled for every child, we focus on youth defense specialization through a lens of racial justice and examine state-based youth defense delivery systems. Youth defenders are essential to dismantling the structures of racism that contribute to the vast racial disparities at every decision-point in the legal system. Youth defense specialists are knowledgeable of specific laws and procedures that apply in juvenile court, versed in adolescent development and evolving youth-specific jurisprudence, competent to effectively counsel youth on making critical legal decisions, able to convey complex legal principles to their young clients and families, engage community partners, and have a clear understanding of the obligations of the educational and other systems impacting the lives of youth clients. The Gault Center's state assessments provide an overview of a state’s youth defense delivery system and offer recommendations for strengthening the provision of children's constitutional right counsel.