About This Issue

In many jurisdictions, the attorney-client relationship in delinquency court ends after disposition, leaving youth on their own, without a fierce advocate in the system, to navigate continuing and complex legal obligations while on probation or while incarcerated.

Many challenging legal issues may arise during this post-disposition period that require the “guiding hand of counsel” to ensure youth voices are heard and to steer them toward successful outcomes and away from deeper court involvement. These issues can include conditions of confinement, probation, parole, appeal, possible early release, securing safe and affordable housing, or accessing opportunities like employment and education.

Without the help of counsel, many youth may end up back in court or in detention. And, strong advocacy from committed counsel during this period can serve to highlight shortcomings in the way courts and other institutions treat the children in their care.

For examples of successful mechanisms that have been used to provide youth with post-dispositional representation, see the Innovation Brief on Addressing the Legal Needs of Youth After Disposition. You can also learn more about our initiative to help advocates fight for expanded post-disposition representation.

Our Position

Consistent with best practices and Part VII Role of Juvenile Defense Counsel After Disposition of the National Juvenile Defense Standards, juvenile defenders should stay in contact with their clients after disposition while the client is under court or agency jurisdiction, and should continue their representation, including at disposition review and parole revocation hearings.

For youth in secure placement, defenders have a heightened responsibility to monitor the treatment, safety, and mental health of their clients and to help ensure that a re-entry plan is in place so that the child can effectively reintegrate into the community and is not set up for failure once released. Further, defenders have a post-dispositional duty to inform their clients of the right to appeal, explaining that the decision to appeal ultimately belongs to the client.