The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) recognizes April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time for all parents, children, judges, legal professionals, social workers, corporate leaders, and court system stakeholders to pause and consider the significant impact child abuse can have on our communities and nation. In 1983, President Ronald Regan proclaimed April to be the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since then, many public agencies and organizations around the country have organized activities and created resources to raise public awareness and provide detailed information on how to recognize, report, and prevent child abuse.
The NCJFCJ’s mission is to provide judges, courts, and related agencies involved with juvenile, family, and domestic violence cases with the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the families and children who seek justice. With approximately 424,000 abused and neglected children in foster care in the U.S., the NCJFCJ strives to provide judges, stakeholders and communities with training and technical assistance to implement best practices and improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and their families.
In the last year, the NCJFCJ has released several publications and resolutions in an effort to promote the safety and well-being of abused and neglected children. In May 2016, the Enhanced Resource Guidelines were published. The Enhanced Resource Guidelines, cover all stages of the court process and serve as a blueprint for improving the handling of child abuse and neglect cases. They build on the previously published Resource Guidelines (1995) and Adoption and Permanency Guidelines (2000) and incorporate changes in federal law from the last 20 years, as well as lessons learned from those courts that implemented the original Resource Guidelines. Judicial bench cards outlining each key hearing from start to finish are also included.
In addition, the NCJFCJ, in partnership with the Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams, updated the 2002 technical assistance brief Questions Every Judge and Lawyer Should Ask About Infants and Children in the Child Welfare System to include new information gathered from field experts and research studies in order to address the complex nature and wide ranging needs of this vulnerable population. Finally, the NCJFCJ created several resolutions: a resolution in support of those best practices outlined in the Enhanced Resource Guidelines; a resolution supporting the Family First Prevention Services Act; and a resolution recognizing the importance of judicial oversight in cases with children placed in group facilities.
In July 2014, the NCJFCJ launched the Implementation Sites Project. Courts involved in the Implementation Sites Project implement those best practices outlined in the Enhanced Resource Guidelines, with tailored training and technical assistance from the NCJFCJ, to improve their current court practices and, in an effort to provide better outcomes for children and their families involved in the child welfare system. Earlier this year, six additional courts were selected join the original 8 Implementation Sites. The NCJFCJ will be hosting a Lead Judge Meeting and All-Sites Conference April 19-21, 2017 and will include teams from all of the Child Abuse and Neglect Department’s court projects: Implementation Sites, Project ONE Sites, and Tribal Model Courts. This year’s curriculum will focus on judicial leadership, building and strengthening a collaborative, and implementing hearing best practices.
The NCJFCJ also supports National Child Abuse Prevention Month through its dedication to judicial and professional trainings. National experts and judicial faculty are invited each year to the Institute for New Juvenile and Family Court Judges, held from April 24-28, 2017, to train on core competencies for juvenile and family court judges; including coverage of child abuse and neglect. The NCJFCJ will also hold its 21st Child Abuse and Neglect Institute June 12-16, 2017. This highly interactive, week-long training is specifically designed for judges newly assigned to child abuse and neglect dockets, or for those interested in getting the most up to date information on best practices in this area.
The NCJFCJ supports its many national community partners, agencies, and courts that plan programs and activities for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Prevent Child Abuse Nevada has planned “Go Blue Day” on April 7, 2017 and Prevent Child Abuse America has planned several events as part of their Pinwheels for Prevention in an effort to further raise awareness on the importance in helping to celebrate every child’s right to a safe, healthy, and happy childhood.
In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the pinwheel as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention through Pinwheels for Prevention®. The pinwheel connotes whimsy and childlike notions. In essence, it has come to serve as the physical embodiment, or reminder, of the great childhoods we want for all children. On April 20, 2017, during the Lead Judge Meeting and All-Sites Conference, members of the NCJFCJ, local Washoe CASA Foundation and more will be gathering in a pinwheel garden at the Reno Aces ballpark for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The pinwheel garden will consist of 365 pinwheels, one for every day of the year.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau provides families a Resource Guide and Activity Calendar to help guide families in taking practical steps to promote child well-being in their homes and in the community.
The NCJFCJ remains dedicated to working with communities, courts, and families in the continued support of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As part of the NCJFCJ’s continued effort to raise awareness about this very important issue, the NCJFCJ will be publishing a series of articles from the perspective of various judges and advocates around the nation.
- A System of Care for Traumatized Children by NCJFCJ Board Director and La Crosse County Circuit Court (Wisconsin) Judge Ramona Gonzalez
- Giving a Voice to the Voiceless by NCJFCJ Past President and Douglas County Juvenile Court (Georgia) Judge Peggy Walker and Children’s Voice: CASA Executive Director Katy Hilbert
- Balancing the Indian Child Welfare Act by Paul Mooney, 2L at Michigan State University of Law, Indigenous Law and Policy Program
- The Intersection of Child Welfare and Domestic Violence by Elizabeth Stoffel, JD, Senior Program Attorney, NCJFCJ and Kelly Ranasinghe, JD, Senior Program Attorney, NCJFCJ
- Positive Outcomes in Child Welfare by Judge David B. Katz, Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County