Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker is an activist judge for the children of Georgia – the children she loves who do not get what they need for healthy, successful lives. She’s seen how the children are failed when they come back to court again and again. Now she’s doing something about it. When she takes over later this year as the president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, she’ll have a national platform to promote changes in polices and practices to prevent and treat childhood trauma. For now, she is spreading the word around the state of Georgia through conferences in four different regions, with the first one held January 10 at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
Woven into Judge Walker’s Georgia Summit on Complex Trauma keynote address to more than 400 participants — including judges, their staffs, child and family services professionals, and advocates — was a description of a painful case from her work as a judge. She began her presentation on what science tells us to do for children who have experienced complex trauma with a photo of herself (shown above) holding “Dalton.” He was the first drug-free child in the court’s family drug treatment program; his mother “Tonya” was a participant (both names are pseudonyms).
During the 10 years that “Tonya” had been in and out of her court, Judge Walker did not know her story. When she found out, she learned that “Tonya’s” mother was alcoholic, emotionally abusive, and manipulative. At age seven, “Tonya” was raped by a 50-year-old neighbor who was later incarcerated but freed after three years. She tried drug treatment in