The Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic developed from a research and reform project that was a collaboration of Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Chief Judge had initiated the project to improve how judges in the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department (Juvenile Court) obtained and used clinical, i.e., mental health information. The multi-year project supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, established that clinical information frequently is valuable in assisting Juvenile Court judges with difficult and/or complex legal decisions. The project also determined, however, that numerous obstacles hampered Juvenile Court judges’ ability to obtain timely, relevant, and accurate clinical information. These obstacles included: inappropriate and/or vague referrals which yielded little or no useful information; a backlog of requests that produced lengthy delays to obtaining needed information; and little or no communication between Juvenile Court and clinical providers. The research project proposed a model for a court clinic that incorporated a variety of services to minimize or eliminate those problems and enhance the use of clinical information for obtaining the best possible results for court-involved minors and families.
In 2003, the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court established the Juvenile Court Clinic as a non-judicial office within the Circuit Court of Cook County. See, www.cookcountycourt.org/about/non-judicial.html. The Clinic’s operation is based on the research model and operates under Northwestern management in continued partnership with Cook County.
The Clinic’s stated mission is “to ensure 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.” The Clinic is located in the Cook County Juvenile Center that contains the Juvenile Court’s Juvenile Justice and Child Protection courtrooms, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), the Department of Juvenile Probation, and other entities affiliated with the Juvenile Court. This location permits the Clinic to be well-integrated with and responsive to the needs of the Juvenile Court, its constituents, and court-affiliated entities.
The Clinic employs a multi-disciplinary staff who carry out a variety of forensic services to help judges, lawyers, probation offices, and JTDC staff make informed and relevant decisions concerning minors and families in Juvenile Justice and Child Protection legal proceedings. These services include:
- Consultation with judges and other Juvenile Court personnel concerning mental health issues;
- Assistance to ensure that referrals are documented, specific, and conveyed to the appropriate clinical provider;
- Liaison between the Court and clinical providers regarding pending referrals;
- Court-ordered forensic evaluations that provide information to use in making legal decisions such as sentencing, fitness to stand trial, competence to waive Miranda rights in delinquency cases and visitation or termination of parental rights in child protection cases;
- Expert testimony concerning forensic evaluations;
- Providing information on community-based mental health services relevant for delinquent youth and their families, using a database developed with Dana Weiner, Ph.D. (previously with Northwestern University’s Mental Health Services and Policy Program within Feinberg School of Medicine) that contains extensive information on community based resources;
- Training and education activities to enhance use of clinical information in a legal setting, e.g., training Juvenile Court personnel on clinical issues and Clinic staff on relevant clinical and legal issues;
- Clinical placement for students in law, social work, psychology, and criminology;
- Rotation for the forensic psychiatry fellowship in the Division of Psychiatry and Law;
- Program evaluation to monitor and measure the quality, adequacy, and utility of the Clinic’s work for the Court;
- Use of Clinic data for relevant research projects such as using the MAYSI-2 screening instrument on non-detained youth; accuracy of predicting fitness restoration of minors in delinquency cases; and characteristics of parents for whom the Court is considering termination of parental rights.
The Clinic has been acknowledged at local and national levels for its innovative structure and quality of its work for and with the Juvenile Court. In addition to presentations at national conferences such as APA and APLS, Clinic staff have published numerous articles describing and/or related to the Clinic’s work in Juvenile Court:
- Using the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument-Version 2 (MAYSI-2) on a Community Sample of African American and Latino/a Juvenile Offenders to Identify Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Needs. Kendell Coker, Jamie Wernsman, et .al, (April 2014) Criminal Justice and Behavior 41 (4): 492-511
- Evaluation of Parenting Capacity in Child Protection. Karen S. Budd, Mary Connell, & Jennifer R. Clark. (2011) Guides to Best Practices in Forensic Mental Health Assessments New York: Oxford University Press.
- Illinois’ Fitness Statute: Is It a Good Fit for Juvenile Court? Rachel Tait. (2010) Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Public Interest Law Reporter 15(3): 172-180.
- Psychosocial predictors of clinicians' recommendations and judges' placement orders in a juvenile court.Philip C. O'Donnell and Art J. Lurigio. (2008) Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 1429-1448.
- Making the Connection: Legal Advocacy and Mental Health Services. Barbara A. Kahn, Phillip O’Donnell, Jamie Wernsman, Lynn Bushell, & Antoinette E. Kavanaugh. (July 2007) Family Court Review 45(3):486-500.
- Obtaining and Utilizing Comprehensive Forensic Evaluations: The Applicability of One Clinic’s Model. Antoinette E. Kavanaugh, Jennifer Clark, Tiffany Masson, & Barbara A. Kahn. (2006)Nevada Law Journal 6(3):890-912.
- A Practice Model for Acquiring and Using Clinical Information in Juvenile Court. Julie L. Biehl & Barbara A. Kahn. (2002) Youth Law News13(2):6-11.
- Problems in Acquisition and Use of Clinical Information in Juvenile Court: One Jurisdiction’s Response. Joseph T. Scally, Antoinette E. Kavanaugh, Karen S. Budd, Dana Royce Baerger, & Barbara A. Kahn. (2001-2002) Children’s Legal Rights Journal 21(4):15-24.
- Report Concerning Reform of the Clinical Information System in the Child Protection and Juvenile Justice Department of the Circuit Court of Cook County and Proposal for redesigned Juvenile Court Clinic, (August, 1999). Report issued by Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County. PDF available from the Clinic upon request.
The majority of the Clinic’s staff are Northwestern University employees, working pursuant to a contract between Northwestern and Cook County. County employees are indicated by *, below.
Krissie Fernandez Smith, PhD., Associate Director
Nereasa Bello-Sykes, MA, MJ
Jennifer Boston, MA, LPC
Michael Clements, MSW, Clinical Coordinator Supervisor
Tamara Friday, LCSW
Karen Pitroda, LCSW
Rita Dalinis, MPPA, Program Evaluation & Resource Supervisor
Hope Fiori, BS, Clinic Administrator
Paulina Serafin, BS, PE Research Assistant
Catherine Murphy, BS, Record Gathering & PE Coding
Martin Nkansah, Ms.Ed., Records Custodian
Abelina Ayala*, Receptionist
Sweety Agrawal, PsyD*
Danielle Rynczak, JD, PsyD*
Anne Devaud, PsyD*
Priscilla Dubois, PsyD*
Michael Igaravidez, PsyD*
Ascher Levy, PsyD*
*Employee of Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Dr. Philip C. O’Donnell, M.J., Ph.D.
Dr. Philip C. O’Donnell, M.J., Ph.D.