Advocates for children should be catalysts for change.

MacArthur Special Counsel Initiative


In 2008, TeamChild received a multi-year grant from the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Models for Change Initiative. With this funding, TeamChild created a Special Counsel position to assist in statewide efforts to enhance juvenile defense. TeamChild was selected to host the Special Counsel because of the unique role we play in juvenile justice reform and our long-standing partnership with juvenile defenders to provide holistic legal advocacy for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

The Problem

Washington State has a county rather than state-based delivery system for juvenile indigent defense services.  It has historically lacked uniform caseload standards and training expectations, consistent supervision, and adequate funding.  Yet, defense attorneys are critical players in the juvenile justice system.  They not only provide an essential check and balance to the workings of the court, but most importantly play a singular role in their relationship with youth and as advocates for their legal and stated interests.

Project Strategies

Juvenile defense attorneys need training, support and leadership in order to be effective in their role.  Improving the quality of defense practice impacts the juvenile justice system at all levels. The Special Counsel’s goals include:

  • improving juvenile defender’s access to training, mentoring and technical assistance,
  • coordinating and building models of high quality holistic defense practices, and
  • increasing juvenile defender’s leadership and meaningful participation in system reform efforts.

 Project Partners

The Special Counsel’s work is done in partnership with many organizations, including the Center for Children and Youth Justice, the Washington State Office of Public Defense, the Washington Defender Association, and the National Juvenile Defender Center.

Washington Juvenile Defender Leadership Network

Click the icon below to download a copy of our December 2011 WJDLN Newsletter.