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NJDC Resource: "Trauma-Informed Legal Advocacy: A Resource for Juvenile Defense Attorneys"

This post will be brief because I only intend to share a helpful resource for juvenile defense practitioners created and published by the National Juvenile Defender Center and the American Bar Association: “Trauma-Informed Legal Advocacy: A Resource for Juvenile Defense Attorneys.”

Although this guide is 26 pages, it is just one of several jumping-off points for building a holistic advocacy strategy for juvenile clients. And since 70-90% of young people “involved with the justice system . . . have been exposed to trauma[,]” the resource is both instructive about practical steps as well as directive on resources to consult.

After defining what “trauma informed legal advocacy” is, the guide contextualizes the importance of practicing this form of advocacy by describing the impact of trauma on child development. This impact is relevant to both building mitigation arguments about past behavior as well as strategizing around current care (e.g. using social supports) and attaining resources for clients moving forward (e.g. building community connections).

The trauma that a person has experienced follows them, including to the attorney-client relationship. This guide lays out strategies for building a physically and psychologically safe space for clients. Additionally, the guide suggests potential assessments as well as how to obtain said evaluations. Finally, the guide provides insight into how the young person’s trauma can impact individuals in their lives—including the attorney representing the client.