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“Little Eddie” is 15, big for his age, under-educated for his grade, and he’s just had an altercation with a teacher that lands him in jail on an assault charge. For the purposes of a recent training session for public defenders who handle juvenile cases, he’s a mythical character invented by the panelists to teach the class. Or is he? “How many people here have represented Little Eddie?” said attorney Joshua Dohan, who headed the panel “Nobody’s Kids” at the Committee for Public Counsel Services annual training conference. He saw the hands go up, and nodded knowingly. “Yeah, we’ve all represented Little Eddie.” In the mythical Eddie’s case, the young man who has been expelled from school and thrown out of his home by parents who can’t handle him anymore has three attorneys: Dohan, CPCS Director of Youth Advocacy Project in Roxbury, Mass., who is his “delinquency” lawyer; Springfield attorney Ellen H. Ryan, who will handle Eddie’s children-in-need-of-services (CHINS) issues; and Fall River, Mass., education attorney Diane M. Parent, head of the new EdLaw Project, which works with CPCS attorneys on schooling issues related to juvenile cases. FINDING RESOURCES, MAKING ALLIES In real life, legal representation isn’t usually as multi-faceted for the Little Eddies of the world. The goal of the “Nobody’s Kids” panel was to help change that by letting juvenile case attorneys know how to tap into different legal resources to coordinate the issues of schooling, criminal charges and social services for children. “The judges want to know ‘Is the kid coming back to court? Is he going back to school? Does he have a supportive home? And what kind of behavior can I expect later?’” said Dohan. To answer those questions, the attorneys said, allies need to be made of parents, teachers or probation officers who can provide some history as to the problems that led Little Eddie to jail. “Most parents want some input. They aren’t my clients, but I treat them a lot like they are my clients, too,” said Dohan. “I also make an ally of the teacher. A lot of teachers are sensitive to the fact that kids are troubled and need help, just maybe not in their classroom.” “I invite the parents into the CHINS process,” added Ryan. “I tell them if they don’t get involved, they are giving away their custody to social services, and [the agency] will make all the decisions. I ask them, ‘is that what you really want?’ and often they will tell me that wasn’t their plan. Their plan was just to get some services for their kids.” Parent, of the EdLaw project, recommended attorneys go back at least three years into the child’s school records to locate some pattern of behavioral or academic problems, particularly to see if the child was evaluated for special education needs. “You can put the school on notice that the child needs special education, that the school has some responsibility for not having made recommendations for special education earlier,” Parent said. “It’s a rarity that the parents haven’t done anything to address the problems. But if they brought it up at school, and were ignored, you can use this later.” Getting the child back into school and avoiding expulsion is likely to get the child an easier time in court, showing court officials some stability has returned to the child’s life. “If the judge can leave at the end of the day knowing Eddie got a message here and his circumstances have changed,” said Dohan, “I think a lot of judges will decide they don’t have to give the kid a record.”

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