NCJFCJ's Membership Magazine - In Session - Winter 2015

A Message from NCJFCJ President Judge Peggy Walker:

Children’s Lives Matter

Welcome to 2015! I hope this first edition of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ In Session, our quarterly resource for members only, is informative and inspires you to continue to improve court practices and the lives of the children, families, and victims that come before you. As the new year begins, NCJFCJ focuses on our policy agenda. In February we will conduct our annual visit to Capitol Hill where we will visit with members of Congress, federal agencies, and partners in the field of juvenile and family law. During this time we will host a roundtable briefing to educate these stakeholders on the role of the juvenile and family court judge and work of the NCJFCJ. These briefings have proven to be integral to achieving our funding goals. NCJFCJ worked diligently to support and ensure passage of the reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was signed into law in March, 2013. Now, this same degree of effort focuses on the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which has been awaiting reauthorization since 2002. On December 11, 2014, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced S. 2999, the JJDPA reauthorization measure addressing four core areas: deinstitutionalization of status offenders, removal of juveniles from adult jails and detention facilities, avoidance of sight and sound contact between juveniles and adults in custody, and addressing disproportionality minority contact in the juvenile justice system. Research supports these critical initiatives, and science tells us that children are very different from adults: brains have not matured, and actions and decisions are based upon emotions. When we do not recognize the trauma of incarceration; shackling; or removal from home, school and community, we are setting up our children to fail. Reauthorization of the JJDPA and allocation of funding to support community efforts to strengthen families and communities to serve our youth through effective policies and programs will bring better outcomes for our children, families, communities and nation.

My call to action: The fall elections brought approximately 70 new members to Congress. You, as a member of the organization, can help advance NCJFCJ’s policy agenda and educate new members on the issues courts are facing by introducing new members of Congress to you and your court and the work and resources of the NCJFCJ. Consider inviting your senators and representative to observe your court. Each year, I invite members of the Georgia U.S. delegation to come to my court during one of their scheduled state or district recess periods. Typically, congressional members will send staff to observe court and meet with me which is very helpful as we are then able to identify and build relationships with the appropriate staffer in the local offices. This process often times leads to an introduction to the key staff members in the D.C. office. This has opened a dialog on a myriad of issues facing our children, families and systems by allowing them to observe the challenges—many as a result of the tough economic times over the past few years. Initiating and building these relationships result in leaders and their staff members looking to the NCJFCJ and our judges for information, expertise and discussion of budget and policy decisions. This gives us the opportunity to strengthen NCJFCJ’s voice at the national level. For a listing of the new members of Congress and the 2015 Senate and House calendars and scheduled recess periods, please go to page 29 of this resource.

Children’s lives matter. Help us, help them.

Call, e-mail or write your senators and representatives today! To request an electronic or hard copy NCJFCJ informational packet, please contact Sarah Grabowska at sgrabowska@ncjfcj.org.

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