September 10, 2008
A standing-room only crowd attended CfJJ's Juvenile Justice Forum on September 10 at the Boston Bar Association featuring Gail Garinger, the new Child Advocate in Massachusetts. (The Office of the Child Advocate was created by Executive Order of Governor Deval Patrick in December, 2007, and was further defined by legislation passed in July, 2008.) Ms. Garinger, formerly a Juvenile Court judge, was appointed as the Child Advocate in April, 2008.
She spoke about how she envisioned the role she would play in addressing systemic issues that affect the children of Massachusetts and her view of the inextricable links between the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. After a brief overview of her thoughts on the Office of the Child Advocate, she responded to questions and comments from the large group. Many attendees, representing government agencies, non-profit service providers, researchers, and community leaders, expressed concerns about the lack of data available about children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, a concern that Ms. Garinger shared. She stressed the importance of aggregate, statistical data in forming policy and also spoke about the need to educate staff at all levels of the system about the various alternatives and programs that exist for young people in order to reduce unnecessary detention and other potentially damaging practices. The forum was a wonderful opportunity for stakeholders to learn about the new Child Advocate and express their views on a number of issues facing youth in Massachusetts.