To: President-elect Donald Trump
From: Joey Orduna Hastings, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
Re: Expanding and Improving Opportunities for Vulnerable Children and Families: Recommendations for the Administration, and Commitment of the NCJFCJ
The judiciary is responsible for making sure that our Constitution and laws are fairly implemented and enforced. State and tribal juvenile and family court judges oversee family violence, juvenile justice, child welfare, and criminal cases. Making decisions that are effective and fair has gotten more complicated as our understanding of child development, the adolescent brain, and the effects of trauma has advanced. In order to make good decisions and protect our most vulnerable children and families and our communities, state and tribal juvenile and family court judges require continuing judicial education and technical assistance in best practices based on the latest research.
We believe collaboration between the incoming Administration and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) will benefit the nation. Together we can reduce social, health care, and justice costs, and significantly improve the lives of vulnerable children and families. The NCJFCJ provides resources that enhance the courts’ and communities’ understanding of, and the justice system’s response to a wide range of issues facing courts and communities. These issues include domestic child sex trafficking, school-to-prison pipeline, bullying, childhood trauma, tribal youth, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, and the impact on families of opioid addiction and substance abuse.
The NCJFCJ has 80 years of expertise and partnership with the federal government. We look forward to expanding on our unique collaboration by working closely on these issues with your Administration. Children and families have benefitted tremendously from the federal resources and partners that continue to advance the field by strengthening education, research, and technical assistance for state and tribal juvenile and family courts. In addition, with a continued partnership, costs to the federal, state, and local governments and taxpayers will not face rapid growth due to the costs of increased incarceration, unaddressed mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, and law enforcement. We look forward to working with new leadership, and to this end make the following recommendations and commitments.
Within the first 100 days of your Administration:
The NCJFCJ urges you to establish a team dedicated to working with judges, courts, and federal agencies on how to best address child welfare, juvenile justice, child sex trafficking, and domestic violence matters.
The NCJFCJ urges you to appoint strong leadership in the White House and federal agencies overseeing justice for children, families, and victims, in particular for:
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
- Office on Violence Against Women
- Office for Victims of Crime
- Administration for Children and Families
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
The NCJFCJ commits to working with you and federal agencies on behalf of state and tribal juvenile and family courts.
The NCJFCJ urges you to appoint and looks forward to working with an Administration and leadership that:
- has knowledge of and experience with issues related to children and families, domestic violence, juvenile justice, and tribal law;
- will effectively oversee current and new programs and policies that will reform the child welfare, domestic violence, and juvenile justice systems where needed;
- will actively engage with state and tribal juvenile and family court judges on the issues and promising practices addressing child welfare, domestic violence, and juvenile justice, and we commit to working with you to facilitate this engagement; and
- understands the need for an educated judiciary and for a judicial/federal partnership that supports state and tribal juvenile and family courts as they implement cost-saving, promising practices that will promote swift, fair, and coordinated justice to children and families.
The NCJFCJ commits and looks forward to working as part of a state/federal partnership that includes greater interagency collaboration among child welfare, juvenile justice, and domestic violence agencies at all levels of government.
The NCJFCJ supports, and hopes to work with you on efforts to reauthorize legislation that supports and protects at-risk children, families, and victims, including the following bipartisan legislation:
- Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act
- Court Improvement Program Reauthorization
- Family First Prevention Services Act
- Family Violence Prevention and Services Act
- Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
Throughout your Administration:
The NCJFCJ commits to being a resource and working in partnership with the Administration and the federal agencies on the following:
- trauma-responsive courts and policy and practices to enhance courts’ capacity to respond to those who have experienced trauma;
- child sex trafficking prevention and services for trafficking victims;
- treatment courts – juvenile drug courts, mental health courts, safe babies courts;
- School-Justice Partnership to keep kids in school and out of court;
- co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment;
- domestic violence prevention and services for children and families;
- tribal courts and the advancement of tribal justice systems and practices to meet the needs of tribal youth and families;
- juvenile justice system data collection and analysis improvement, and training and technical assistance for juvenile justice professionals; and
- growing senior citizen population and services to ensure protection and justice for this population.
We look forward to the opportunity to talk through these recommendations and discuss other ways the NCJFCJ can work with you and your team.