We are pleased to release the second edition of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Juvenile Court Training Curriculum. Intended for juvenile court judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and probation staff, the curriculum provides in-depth training materials on the most up-to-date adolescent development research and its application to juvenile court practice. As a part of the MacArthur Foundation’s project, Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice, this curriculum is available to jurisdictions across the country to enhance the capacity of professionals to make high-quality, developmentally appropriate decisions about the court-involved youth with whom they work.

Each module contains an estimate of presentation timing, a list of learning objectives, a summary of key concepts, and comprehensive substantive material on the particular topic. To encourage trainings to be interactive, the authors have included several exercises, including hypothetical case scenarios, discussion guides for video clips, and other training tools.

To receive a copy of the Curriculum or to request training based on the Curriculum please click on the link below:

Fill out the curriculum request form!


MfC Overview

Toward Developmentally Appropriate Practice: A Juvenile Court Training Curriculum - An Overview

The Training Modules

Module One
Adolescent Development provides participants with a working knowledge of key aspects of adolescent development and their application to decision making at critical junctures in the juvenile court process. Participants in this training will learn how teenagers develop their cognitive skills, moral framework, social relations, and identity, as well as how various factors, including brain development, disabilities and the external environment in which they live, affect their behavior and decision making. Specifically, this module is designed to provide juvenile justice professionals with a better understanding of those factors that led to a particular youth’s involvement in the court system and thereby inform decision making at important stages in the juvenile court process, including intake, detention, waiver, adjudication and disposition.

Module Two
Screening, Assessing, and Evaluating Youth provides professionals with information about forensic evaluations, as well as screening and assessment instruments used in juvenile justice systems. Participants will learn how forensic evaluations can inform legal decisions and the type of information that must go into evaluations. The module covers key components of the mental health evaluation process; the importance of finding qualified examiners and focusing referral questions appropriately; tips for reviewing and understanding reports; and the importance of confidentiality protections for information obtained through evaluations and screening and assessment.

Module Three
Special Education and Disability Rights provides an overview of education-related disabilities, the laws pertaining to special education and disability rights, and the relevance of special education and disability rights for juvenile courts. In particular, the module covers the major provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The applicability of each of these statutes to juvenile court processing and advocacy is explained. In addition, the module includes discussion of school discipline practices and policies that impact the court involvement of youth with disabilities, with a particular focus on the IDEA school discipline protections. The module also covers the challenges faced by youth, their parents, and advocates in securing special education rights, and describes the importance of identifying youth eligible for special education services.

Module Four
Legal Questions about Youth’s Capacities reviews the legal questions in delinquency cases that require information about youth’s capacities, including the validity of waivers of Miranda rights, the voluntariness of confessions, the competence of youth to participate in the legal process, and the transfer of youth to criminal court. For each of these, the module provides information about relevant behavioral and social science research that is useful for addressing the questions. The module also provides an overview of forensic evaluations performed by mental health examiners to address youth’s capacities, and gives participants information about how to obtain or review such evaluations.

Module Five
Communicating with Youth: Interviews and Colloquies describes techniques for effective communication with youth involved in the juvenile court system, including respondents, witnesses and complaining witnesses. In particular, the module covers how professionals can incorporate developmental considerations into their communications with youth, whether they are trying to get information from, or impart information to, youth. By teaching participants to achieve self-awareness as interviewers, this module will help provide participants with skills needed to interview youth in developmentally-sound and culturally competent ways, including displaying understanding of girls, youth of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. In addition, the module will highlight the importance of sensitive interviewing of youth with disabilities, traumatized youth, and youth with mental health needs.


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