Georgia juvenile court judge galvanizes statewide child trauma initiatives

Judge

Douglas County (GA) Juvenile Court Judge Peggy Walker and “Dalton”

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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

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Foster human flourishing, and improved economic production will follow

lifelinesIn a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Lifelines for Poor Children“, James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate and professor of economics at the University of Chicago, makes a compelling case for quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children that “more than pay for themselves in better education, health and economic outcomes.” But making these high-yield investments in children from birth to age five will require us, according to Heckman, “to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.”

Heckman points to two long-term research studies that have demonstrated high rates of return on investment: the Ypsilanti, Michigan Perry Preschool project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project, aka “ABC.” Both programs included cognitive stimulation as well as non-cognitive skill development such as training in self-control and social skills, and parenting practices. The Perry Preschool project showed that while the experience did not make lasting changes in children’s IQs as was expected, it did improve their overall, lifetime success in education, earnings and stability overall. The “ABC” project did show lasting effects on IQ as well as on parenting practices and

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The “Still Face” video still packs an emotional wallop

When the Washington Post carried a story by Brigid Schulte about the new Institute of Medicine report New Directions In Child Abuse and Neglect Research, Ed Tronick, Ph.D., psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, wrote to her about his research and shared a link to the “Still Face” experiment video. In a recent blog post, Schulte’s reaction to the two-minute video was similar to Jane Stevens’ on this site just about a year ago: It is very hard to watch the infant’s distress build as her mother maintains a “still face” and there is a feeling of deep relief when the young mother returns to her normal expressive self.

While the video packs a wallop, it is still difficult to even begin to fathom the profound impact of child neglect (to say nothing of abuse), according to Schulte. A year ago the video had been viewed over 700,000 times and today that number has risen to well over a million.

Schulte reports that Ed Tronick and others have

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Sexual abuse of nine-year old “Boarding School Boy”: Edward M. Kennedy’s childhood trauma

toughbkIn his book How Children Succeed, Paul Tough mentions that both John and Robert Kennedy attended Riverdale Country School in the Bronx as he introduces the reader to the character initiative of the Riverdale’s headmaster Dominic Randolph. I remembered that Senator Edward M. Kennedy also attended Riverdale and was drawn to re-read the account of his time there in his memoir True Compass. In 1941 when Ted Kennedy was nine

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First Focus’ Children’s Budget 2013 shows less than 8 percent of U.S. budget invested in children

firstfocusFirst Focus‘ recently published report, Children’s Budget 2013, shows a decline in total federal spending on children for three consecutive years and reports that less than 8 percent of the federal budget is invested in children. Current Congressional budget negotiations pose a real threat to sustaining even this low level of federal support, in spite of strong public support for children’s programs.

The analysis by the bipartisan children’s advocacy organization looks at the more than 180 specific federal investments in children, ranging from broad

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Models to curb domestic violence emerge from tragic murder in Massachusetts in 2002

nyorkerThe July 22 issue of the New Yorker contains a riveting account (“A Raised Hand: Can a new approach curb domestic homicide?” by Rachel Louise Snyder) of how the tragic 2002 murder of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter by her husband led to a fundamentally new approach to prevent domestic violence fatalities by advocates at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center where she sought help.

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