Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic
The Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic, a partnership between the Office of Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and Northwestern University, is a non-judicial office within the Circuit Court of Cook County. See, www.cookcountycourt.org/about/non-judicial.html. Affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry since 2009, the Clinic’s mission is ensuring the Juvenile Court’s timely access to relevant, accurate, and culturally sensitive clinical information that promotes the best possible outcomes for children, families, and communities in Juvenile Court proceedings.
The Clinic’s association with Northwestern began in 1995 with a research and reform project initiated by the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County to evaluate and improve the use and acquisition of clinical (mental health) information in Juvenile Court. The multi-year project, a collaboration between the Office of the Chief Judge, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Northwestern University School of Law, and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, included a comprehensive evaluation of the Juvenile Court’s clinical information system, examination of systems serving other jurisdictions, and consultation with experts in the fields of juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health. In 1999, the Chief Judge issued a report of the research findings, recommendations for reform, and a model for a new Juvenile Court Clinic. Endorsed by the Chief Judge, the model was based on the principle that an effective clinical information system must incorporate multiple functions and not simply provide the court with clinical evaluation reports.
In June, 2003, Chief Judge Timothy Evans implemented the reform model as the Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic. The Clinic’s multi-disciplinary staff provide a variety of services that are organized in an operational model of multiple functional areas as indicated in bold below:
- Clinical Coordination includes consultation with judges and other Juvenile Court personnel; assistance to ensure that referrals are documented, specific, and conveyed to the appropriate clinical provider; and forensic evaluations for use in legal decision-making.
- Resource Consultation addresses a need identified in the research to provide the Court with information on community-based mental health services relevant for delinquent youth and their families. A key feature of Resource Consultation is a database that Clinic staff developed in conjunction with Dana Weiner, Ph.D. containing extensive information on community based resources. The Clinic’s database subsequently was incorporated into the Statewide Provider Database that Dr. Weiner developed for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) through her work with Northwestern’s Mental Health Services and Policy Program in the Department of Psychiatry. The Clinic continues to collaborate with Dr. Weiner on database updates, access training, and other related issues.
- Training and Education to enhance use of clinical information in a legal setting includes training Juvenile Court personnel on clinical issues and Clinic staff on relevant clinical and legal issues. The Clinic also has served as a clinical placement for graduate students in law, social work, and related fields and has a year-long post-doctoral program in forensic psychology. Most recently, in conjunction with the Division of Psychiatry and Law, the Clinic assisted in developing the Psychiatry Department’s forensic psychiatry fellowship program for which the Clinic will serve as a placement site.
- Program Evaluation gathers, stores, and analyzes data in its web-based case management system to monitor and measure the quality, adequacy, and utility of the Clinic’s work for the Court. This function also supports the Clinic’s research projects concerning clinical information and Juvenile Court, such as: using the MAYSI-2 screening instrument on non-detained youth; trends among minors found unfit to stand trial; and characteristics of parents for whom the Court is considering termination of parental rights.