Judges, court administrators, and judicial professionals are at the fulcrum of trends pointing to "a more humane, less punitive, and more effective approach" to youth involved in the juvenile justice system, according to Office of Justice Programs Acting Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon.
In recorded remarks delivered at the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges' (NCJFCJ's) 84th Annual Conference, the Acting Assistant Attorney General promised to dedicate resources to keep youth out of the justice system and supported in their communities.
She highlighted proposals by the Biden-Harris Administration that support evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies and alternatives to incarceration. President Biden requested $800 million to fund juvenile justice programs in fiscal year 2022, more than twice the current funding, she noted, reflecting a commitment to "reforms that give children and youth in the system a second chance to live up to their potential."
Acting OJJDP Administrator Chyrl Jones also delivered recorded remarks at the conference, held July 18–21, 2021, in St. Louis, MO. Referencing the longstanding collaboration between OJJDP and NCJFCJ, she called the council "a valued partner in our efforts to safeguard youth."
NCJFCJ provides training and resources to judges, courts, and justice professionals to improve the lives of those seeking justice in the juvenile and family courts systems. In her recorded remarks, Acting Administrator Jones praised the council for staying true to its mission despite the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, NCJFCJ trained nearly 10,000 judges and court professionals and responded to approximately 800 requests for technical assistance.
The Acting Administrator specifically noted work by NCJFCJ's research division, the National Center for Juvenile Justice, on OJJDP's national data collections: analyzing and disseminating information on youth crime and victimization. Data from 2018 show the lowest number of youth in residential placement since 1975—but an even lower number is achievable, she asserted.
"We know that juvenile delinquency is often associated with a range of factors, including family dysfunction, substance use disorders, and exposure to neglect and violence," the Acting Administrator said. "It is imperative, then, that we intervene early to prevent youth from coming into contact with the juvenile justice system in the first place."
The OJJDP-NCJFCJ partnership spans decades and has spurred several innovative programs, including OJJDP's Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel program. NCJFCJ contributions include training and technical assistance, and trauma consultations that help courts alleviate damage caused when children witness or experience violence. The council's National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking offers comprehensive judicial trainings and the annual Child Abuse and Neglect Institute is tailored to the training needs of dependency court judges.
The Acting Administrator concluded by reminding attendees about the importance of stakeholder collaboration and community engagement when working to minimize risk factors and maximize protective factors for youth.
"We cannot work in silos if we hope to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of youth, families, and their communities," she said. "OJJDP's strength lies in its partnerships with organizations such as NCJFCJ, and with the dedicated people who carry out the critical work of responding to the unique and evolving needs of justice-involved youth and families."
Learn more about OJJDP efforts to improve the judicial system's handling of child maltreatment cases by reading the Child Protection: Dependency Courts In Focus fact sheet and visiting OJJDP's Responding to Child Abuse webpage.