Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $400,000)
The Delaware Office of Defense Services (“ODS”), through the Truancy Defense Project (“Project”), a statewide initiative, will contract with a specially trained attorney to defend children facing dual involvement in the truancy and delinquency systems. Children will have access to an interdisciplinary defense team, led by the attorney, to advocate for them through a holistic model. Using this approach, the defense team can reach far beyond the courtroom to address underlying and collateral issues, stabilize the child’s life, and achieve better legal outcomes – all of which combine to increase school attendance and decrease recidivism. The attorney will undergo specialized training in areas related to truancy, youth, education, and delinquency to ensure that best practices are implemented. The Project will engage the clients, families, and communities ODS serves by hosting events and forums to hear directly from impacted individuals, creating educational resources, like bench cards and FAQs, and providing advice and direction regarding education and delinquency issues. The Project will educate stakeholders in best practices by hosting a multi-disciplinary summit with local and national experts. A vast data set will be collected to track outcomes and measure performance. A comprehensive assessment and report of Delaware’s truancy system will be completed to serve as a roadmap for improvements and implementation of evidence-based practices for ODS and other stakeholders. Through this Project ODS will elevate its truancy practice and policies to better serve justice involved youth.