Juvenile Justice Clinic explores strategies for “Keeping Children in the Community”
Brian Lombroski, now president of the Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth, knows the system firsthand. A run-in with the law as a 13-year-old landed him in a psychiatric hospital, where he witnessed the overuse of mechanical and chemical restraints, seclusion and humiliating punishments. Martin Rafferty, now the executive director of Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon, had a similarly negative experience during his stay in a residential treatment program as a teen.
“The program I went into was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Rafferty, whose childhood antics — including humming and whistling in school — were labeled “warning signs” by nervous teachers in the aftermath of a nearby school shooting. In his particular treatment center, he said, certain children were isolated or even drugged during inspections by authorities, ensuring that the problems there remained hidden. “I didn’t deserve what I got in this facility.”
Lombroski and Rafferty spoke at the Law Center on July 13 at a program sponsored by Georgetown Law’s Juvenile Justice Clinic and others on “Keeping Children in the Community.” The program looked at some of the problems of residential treatment centers to which delinquent or neglected children are sent, alternatives to residential treatment, best practices, advocacy and access to mental health services. The program was attended by dozens of practitioners, many of whom work with children.
“This conference is part of an ongoing effort … to share some cross-disciplinary strategies of how to deal with problems that arise in institutions and how we handle our children who are going into the institutions,” said Georgetown Law Professor and Juvenile Justice Clinic director Wallace Mlyniec.
Mlyniec and John McCabe, Magistrate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, noted that D.C. youths are frequently sent to institutions in other states — making it hard for families, social workers, attorneys and judges to monitor what’s going on. So they emphasized the importance of discussion, on these and other issues.
“We judges obviously rely on you to tell us what is working and what isn’t,” said McCabe, who served as the luncheon speaker at the event. “The more accurate information I have … the more likely it is that I am going to make the best decision for the child.”
The event was cosponsored by the D.C. Public Defender Service, University Legal Service, Washington College of Law at American University, Children’s Law Center, David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, and the Office of Counsel for Child Abuse and Neglect at the Superior Court.
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