Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $395,542)
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender's (OPD) Bringing Children Home: Multidisciplinary Defense for Youth Charged with Gun Possession program, focusing on Baltimore, Maryland, will enhance juvenile indigent defense by embedding dedicated clinical expertise into the defense team for children charged with gun possession. OPD will incorporate a forensic social worker on the legal team representing children at risk of adult prosecution and sentencing. The social worker will engage with the young client and the legal team at the onset of representation–initially focusing on the transfer or waiver hearing and continuing to provide clinical expertise, support, and referrals throughout the legal proceedings. With dedicated clinical social work expertise embedded into the defense team, this project will address the barriers and gaps within the juvenile justice system that cause youth charged with gun possession to languish in costly out-of-home placement rather than receive community-based. To maximize project impact, and help promote its sustainability and growth, OPD will leverage resources internally–from its Social Work Division, Baltimore City Youthful Defenders Unit (YDU), and statewide Administration–and through partnerships with area social work schools and community treatment providers. Bringing Children Home will serve as a pilot for statewide expansion and a model for other public defender agencies to apply forensic defense social work services to their representation of young clients who are charged with gun possession and other offenses that may subject a child to adult prosecution.