Since its inception in 1999, the Juvenile Division of the Public Defender’s Office has implemented its Client Assessment Recommendation and Evaluation (CARE) Project which focuses on early intervention with youths in delinquency court by addressing the cluster of underlying causes of delinquent behavior such as mental illness, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and trauma. It is a youth advocacy model that is non-traditional in its vision and approach. The CARE Project provides a model continuum of legal representation that incorporates attention to the unaddressed psychosocial and educational needs of youths in the Juvenile Justice system while also emphasizing early intervention and accountability of both the youth involved and the agencies collectively responsible for safeguarding the youth’s interests.
Public Defender attorneys collaborate with a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatric social workers, mental health professionals, resource attorneys, and other clinicians from the earliest stage of the juvenile delinquency proceedings through disposition to:
Since its inception, CARE has assisted on average 1,350 youths each year and some 20,000 children overall.
2008 California Council on Mentally Ill Offenders (COMIO) “Best Practices” Award
COMIO was created by the legislature in 2001 "to investigate and promote cost-effective approaches to meeting the long-term needs of adults and juveniles with mental disorders who are likely to become offenders or who have a history of offending". COMIO’s stated mission is “to end the criminalization of individuals with mental illness by supporting proven strategies that promote early intervention, access to effective treatments, a planned re-entry and the preservation of public safety.” In 2008, five COMIO Best Practices Awards were presented to adult and juvenile programs statewide. CARE was the only non-mental health court program and one of only two juvenile programs to receive this award.