Journal Issue: The Juvenile Court Volume 6 Number 3 Winter 1996
Private Sector and Volunteer Resources
To accomplish its goals, the juvenile court of the future will probably form more integrated partnerships with the private sector and with volunteers. It is evident that there are insufficient resources available to the juvenile court and public agencies working with the court to accomplish the prevention and intervention goals necessary to protect children, support families, and protect the community. Private sector and volunteer support have become important resources utilized by the juvenile court. This trend should continue to grow in the years to come.
Juvenile court systems have worked directly with community-based organizations serving children for decades. Girls and boys clubs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boy and Girl Scouts and a host of other organizations have provided thousands of children with activities and support, and increased the likelihood they would grow into productive adults. Service clubs such as Rotary and Elks have also provided youths with opportunities. In the past 20 years, however, it has become clear that some children and families who appear before the juvenile court have needs that traditional community-based organizations are unable to serve. New organizations have focused on these needs.
The Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program was started by a juvenile court judge who was concerned that abused and neglected children were not getting the special attention they needed.20 CASA volunteers are trained to monitor and advocate for the interests of these children and to report on their needs to the juvenile court. The program has grown dramatically. There are now over 564 local programs nationwide with more than 37,000 volunteers working with over 128,000 abused and neglected children.21 The juvenile court of the future should have larger, stronger CASA programs.
Youth mentoring programs have expanded significantly over the past decade.22 These programs match trained volunteers with delinquent youth. As with the CASA programs, many are connected with the juvenile court and are growing in numbers across the country.
Juvenile courts have also led in the creation of community partnerships for children and families. Combining private, public, and nonprofit resources, these partnerships work together to accomplish goals that no one partner could achieve on its own. Typically, the group is convened by a juvenile court judge, identifies community needs for children and families, and develops an action plan to address those needs. The accomplishments of these partnerships are impressive and have led other communities to copy the model.23 Significant examples of these partnerships include: Jefferson Parish, Gretna, Louisiana;24 the Children's Cabinet in Reno, Nevada;25 Oakland County, Michigan;26 the Children's Network in San Bernardino County, California;27 and Kids in Common in Santa Clara County, California.28 Scores of similar partnerships exist across the country.
The juvenile court of the future should be able to take advantage of community resources more effectively by turning to volunteers and public-private partnerships for support. Communities seem ready to give their time and resources to children and families.29 The challenge for each court will be to identify the most effective ways by which communities can be organized to work with the court on behalf of children.