The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) held its annual National Conference on Juvenile Justice on November 8–11, 2020. The virtual conference covered a range of topics, including juvenile probation reform, conditions of juvenile confinement, youth reentry, and juvenile and family drug courts. OJJDP leadership and staff joined experts from across the country to discuss recent research and best practices for improving the juvenile justice and family court systems.
Administrator Caren Harp participated in a session about OJJDP’s efforts to establish a national juvenile recidivism measurement system, as mandated by the Juvenile Justice Reform Act. Administrator Harp and her copresenters—Douglas Thomas of the Oregon Youth Authority, and George Pesta and Sonja Siennick of Florida State University—described recommendations from an OJJDP-convened working group on the issue, provided details about a recently funded study that will examine various measurement strategies for juvenile reoffending, and highlighted next steps for developing a consensus-based model.
Deputy Administrator Chyrl Jones introduced “Using High Quality Therapeutic Family Time To Improve Outcomes for Children and Families.” The session highlighted the work of an OJJDP Family Drug Court program grantee to support family preservation for children in out-of-home care as a result of a parent’s substance abuse. The program aims to sustain the child-parent connection, help inform reunification decisions, and achieve permanency. Presenters included OJJDP Program Manager Kathryn Barry; District Court Judge Ann Gail Meinster of Denver, CO; and Graham Peper, an attorney and guardian ad litem in Jefferson County, Colorado.
OJJDP Program Manager William Sarrano provided opening remarks for “Child Sex Trafficking Indicators and Responses for Judicial Officials.” The panelists shared information about federal training and technical assistance provided through OJJDP’s Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel and strategies to improve the judicial system's handling of child abuse, neglect, and related cases, including cases involving sex trafficking. The presenters also discussed state legislation that decriminalizes prostitution charges for minors. The Honorable Catherine J. Pratt of the Los Angeles Superior Court described tools judicial officials can use to identify child victims of sex trafficking in their courtrooms and to improve outcomes for these youth. The tools are based on lessons learned from the OJJDP-supported National Judicial Institute on Domestic Child Sex Trafficking. Cherice Hopkins, an attorney with Rights4Girls, also served as a panelist.
NCJFCJ offers educational programs, technical assistance, research, and advanced degree programs for judges and other court professionals. In 2019, NCJFCJ fulfilled more than 820 requests for technical assistance and trained more than 6,600 judges, judicial officers, attorneys, and other juvenile and family court-related professionals.