Chief Justice Thomas J. MoyerJustice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton of the Supreme Court of Ohio will travel to Minnesota Wednesday to join judicial and child welfare agency leaders from all 50 states at a national conference to determine what judicial leadership is needed to most effectively help abused and neglected children.
"Justice for Children: Changing Lives by Changing Systems - A National Judicial Leadership Summit on the Protection of Children" is being held Sept. 20 - 23 in Minneapolis and is sponsored by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, in conjunction with the National Center for State Courts and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
Justice Evelyn Lundberg StrattonJustice Stratton, whose work on behalf of children has led to major reforms in adoption law, will attend the Justice for Children Summit on behalf of Chief Justice Moyer. As chairperson of the Expedited Adoption Committee of the National Center for State Courts, Justice Stratton has led a national effort to reduce the time for appeals in the adoption process. She has also provided strong leadership as a member of the board of trustees for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which is providing support for the summit.
"Children are one of the most important and vulnerable populations in our judicial system," said Chief Justice Moyer. "Determining how to place at-risk children in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible must be a top priority of all those who work on their behalf."
Ohio is recognized nationally for its collaborative efforts between juvenile courts and public children services agencies. Since 2002, the Supreme Court of Ohio has been collaborating with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to provide support to local courts and agencies to improve processes and encourage best practices in juvenile abuse, neglect and dependency cases. Ohio is a recognized leader in improving practices designed to assist children in need of achieving timely permanency and stability. As a result of this, summit organizers have asked Justice Stratton and Donna Mitchell, chief magistrate of Lucas County Juvenile Court, to present workshops in Minnesota.
In addition, the Supreme Court, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, is implementing a statewide initiative to bring interdisciplinary teams together from each county to develop local improvement plans. The "Beyond the Numbers" project, guided by a committee of judges and magistrates, brings together judges and court staff; child welfare agency directors and staff; prosecutors, defense bar members and others, to systemically achieve improved outcomes for each child and family that comes before the court. "Beyond the Numbers" kicked off with a statewide judicial symposium in May 2004 and has since conducted a number of regional meetings in judicial districts throughout the state.
Most recently, j udges, representatives from state agencies and other professionals involved in Ohio's juvenile justice system met at a two-day Supreme Court of Ohio workshop in August to implement a national curriculum designed to ensure that court cases involving foster children are processed quickly and effectively.
"In Ohio, we have already implemented significant initiatives through which judicial and social service leaders work together to determine how to best process cases that directly affect the lives of Ohio children and their families," said Justice Stratton, who will also moderate a panel at the conference. "This conference will allow us to learn what other states are doing and to share what we are doing in Ohio to improve the plight of abused and neglected children."
Others from Ohio who are scheduled to attend the conference include Helen Jones-Kelly, executive director of Montgomery County Children Services, co-chair of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Children Families and the Courts and commissioner of the national Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care; Jessica Shimberg Lind, Supreme Court of Ohio Judicial and Court Services program manager; Donna Mitchell, chief magistrate for Lucas County Juvenile Court; Rick Smith, deputy director of the Office for Children and Families, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services; Ken Lusnia, court administrator for the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court; and Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge James Ray, past president of the National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
In October, the Supreme Court of Ohio in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will host a national forum in Cleveland on children and families in the courts. Chief Justice Moyer is scheduled to speak at "Hope and Justice - a Forum on Children and Families in Court," which will be held Oct. 16 - 19. The forum is sponsored by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.