Sending Office: Honorable Mark Takano
Sent By:
Adrienne.Castro@mail.house.gov

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in sending a letter to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee asking them to allocate $5 million for the Child Abuse Training for Judicial Personnel program and $18 million for Grants To Support Families
in the Justice System program in Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations.

Judges are given a grave responsibility by Congress to oversee family violence, foster care, and child welfare matters to ensure the protection of our country’s most vulnerable children and families. Specialized training for juvenile and family court judges
is critically important to ensure that these court systems are effectively implementing federal statutes and serving victims of abuse, their children, and their families.

Data compiled by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges shows that court personnel who have been trained and received technical assistance through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Child Abuse Training program
have been able to develop cost-effective collaborative system reform efforts. Research supported by the National Institute of Justice shows that well-trained courts that issue protection orders appropriately in domestic violence cases can save a state significant
amounts of money.

To sign on please fill out this form. If you have any questions, please contact Adrienne Castro (Takano) at Adrienne.Castro@mail.house.gov,
202-225-2305 or Scott Nulty (Thompson) at Scott.Nulty@mail.house.gov, 202-225-5121.

See the text below:

 

The Honorable Jose Serrano  

Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science 

Committee on Appropriations

H-309 Capitol

Washington, DC  20510

 

The Honorable Robert Aderholt

Ranking Member  

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science

Committee on Appropriations

1016 Longworth HOB

Washington, DC  20510 

Dear Chairman Serrano and Ranking Member Aderholt: 

As you begin deliberations on the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we respectfully urge you to allocate $5 million for the Child Abuse Training for Judicial Personnel program and $18 million for the Grants
to Support Families in the Justice System program. These Department of Justice programs are authorized in the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, and they serve as a critical backbone to our nation’s response to child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.

When Congress passed the VAWA, the bill empowered judges with significant responsibility to oversee family violence, foster care, juvenile justice, and child welfare matters. The purpose of giving judges such powers was to ensure the protection of our most
vulnerable children and families. Juvenile and family state and tribal court judges are required to make difficult decisions impacting children, families, and communities on a daily basis. These can include decisions about termination of parental rights, child
abuse and neglect, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, divorce, domestic child sex trafficking, and other matters. As the critical federal programs in VAWA have been reauthorized over the years, Congress has increased judicial oversight over juvenile
justice and child welfare matters. Unlike other court systems, judges hearing juvenile and family cases must understand not only the law and the facts of the case, but the dynamics impacting the children and family members before them. 

As the critical program in VAWA and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act have been reauthorized over the years, Congress has increased judicial oversight over juvenile justice and child welfare matters. Specialized and cutting-edge training
for juvenile and family court judges, which is often not provided at the state level, helps ensure that these court systems effectively implement federal laws and serve victims of abuse, their children, and their families. 

Children in America continue to be victims of abuse at alarming rates. An estimated 674,000 children were found to be victims of abuse and neglect nationwide in federal fiscal year 2017, while the estimate of children who received a child protective services
investigation response or alternative response increased by 10 percent from 2013.   Similar to youth involved with dependency court, nearly all youth who enter the juvenile justice system have histories of trauma, and many justice-involved youth report exposure
to chronic trauma across childhood and adolescence. It is therefore not surprising that youth in the dependency system are at risk for entering the delinquency system.

Domestic violence cases now represent a substantial proportion of all cases processed by state criminal and civil courts. The most recent estimates indicate that between 5 and 15.5 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year, and
by age 17, over one-third of America’s children will have been exposed to domestic violence.  Children who live in homes with domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates – 30-60%.

More than one in three women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Approximately one third of these incidents of intimate partner violence take place in homes in which children
ages twelve and under reside, and multiple studies confirm that perpetrators of domestic violence are commonly perpetrators of child abuse (30-60% of the time). Despite the prevalence of domestic violence, and the fact that it has such significance for victim
parents and their children, family courts have limited experience with identifying domestic violence or accounting for it in the decisions they make.

Court personnel who have been trained and received technical assistance through a Child Abuse Training program help to make courts more competent in child safety and well-being. The training allows court personnel to provide swift, fair, and coordinated
justice to families in homes with domestic violence by presenting a multitude of different issues across case types. The training also helps court personnel evaluate cost-effective collaborative system reforms that improve efficiency and promote child safety
and well-being. Early intervention and the provision of appropriate services for children and families in the child welfare system can realize substantial savings by preventing children from crossing over to the juvenile justice system and saving tax-payer’s
money, such as the estimated $401 per day or $146,302  per year it costs to confine a child. Equally important, providing specialized training to juvenile courts and court-appointed advocates can save foster children nearly seven and a half months in the court
system. As a result of spending less time in the court system, foster children may experience less trauma, fewer out of home placements, and have improved educational stability.

The Grants to Support Families in the Justice System improves the response of the civil and criminal justice system to families with a history of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking or in cases involving allegation of child sexual
abuse. The program supports activities to improve the capacity of judicial personnel through training and best practices to improve safety for children and their families in addition to supporting supervised visitation and safe exchange by and between parents
programs. In total, 55 Justice for Families court sites have received specialized training and technical assistance and in the most recent 2018 six-month reporting period 344 consultations and 1,164 professionals have been trained. The project also supports:

• Model code on child custody and domestic violence and development of technical assistance bulletins that are disseminated to court personnel nationwide; 

• Multi-disciplinary roundtables and workshops that bring together judges, attorneys, child protection workers, physical and mental health professionals, educators, and other stakeholders together to address critical issues facing children and families;
and

• Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange website which in 2018 had 18,695 unique pageviews (an increase of 5% from 2017) with approximately 85% of the unique visitors new to the site.

Research supported by the National Institute of Justice shows that well-trained courts that issue protection orders appropriately in domestic violence cases can save state significant money; Kentucky alone saved $85 million in averted costs when courts issued
effective protection orders in domestic violence cases.

Your tremendous leadership in providing resources to children and families victimized by domestic violence and child abuse has been invaluable. While we understand the fiscal constraints you are under, we respectfully request that you continue your commitment
to this issue by ensuring that local justice systems are fully equipped to respond to family, domestic, and youth violence cases and to measure the impact of these interventions on the safety and well-being of our nation’s families.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark Takano                                 Glenn Thompson

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Appropriations, Judiciary

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