Children & Youth Justice

Because children are not the same as adults

The Children & Youth Justice (CYJ) Unit ensures that the legal rights of children are protected and respected at every phase of the criminal justice process. As an organization, we recognize that children in the criminal justice system are different from adults and that they should be represented accordingly.

CYJ’s specially trained, multidisciplinary team of professionals work together to address the legal challenges and provide holistic representation.

Children and Youth Justice Social Services helps to educate and inform our clients and communities. All information shared with the Defender remains confidential and is only used to put together the best possible best legal defense.

The purpose of social is to connect our clients to community supports and our advocates are here to help you. We are here to help you navigate through your court proceedings and be a support system during challenges you might be facing in your personal life.

The Children and Youth Justice Unit has a social work practice nested within our legal practice. Our social workers/advocates work together with attorneys to arrive at the best legal solution recognizing the need for social services to facilitate appropriate support as youth learn to navigate a complex legal system.

Our social work practice’s guiding principles are:

  • Prioritizing our client’s humanity holistically throughout their contact with a broken criminal legal system
  • Eliminating barriers to client’s success while creating barriers for those systems that oppress them; and
  • Supporting clients and communities in elevating their voices in self advocacy

We believe that educating children early is a critical factor in preventing them from contact with the criminal justice system. Educating children about their rights in the criminal justice system is crucial, especially when they are at higher risk of getting in contact with the enforcement officers.

To that end, we aim to educate the community about the history of the Juvenile Act, the history of Philadelphia’s Family Court System, Landmark Legislation that impacts our work, and much more. 

Expungement request are the primary request from our Philadelphia community. At every community event we attend we offer one-on-one expungement clinics with our staff attorneys. In 2019 alone, we filed 405 new expungement petitions and saw 438 of our petitions granted by the courts. 

If you have questions about an expungement you can call us at 267-765-6770 or email us at

Learn more about juvenile record expungements here. 

Nicole El, Unit Chief

Emily Murbarger, Deputy Chief

Follow us: @PhillyDefenders