Children’s Law Center Applauds Missing Youth Update Report as First Step, Pushes for Primary Prevention Methods
Statement from Judith Sandalow, Executive Director, Children’s Law Center
“We here at Children’s Law Center applaud Mayor Muriel Bowser for taking the steps outlined in today’s ‘Six Steps to Protecting Our Youth Update Report.’ The Mayor’s initial focus is on ensuring children are found quickly and that returning youth and their families have the supports necessary to address the crisis that led to the youth running away. I was honored to serve on the Missing and Runaway Youth Working Group and provide insights from Children’s Law Center’s work with the District’s most at-risk youth.
Because children in crisis often have multiple needs, we applaud the focus on creating a multi-agency strategy. Recommendation 1: Response Protocol is a particularly thoughtful way to coordinate across agencies to find missing youth more quickly while simultaneously preparing to address the root cause or circumstance that caused a child to run away.
Additionally, Recommendation 2, which establishes a new 24-hour safe place for youth to go and for police to take found youth, is a critical component that provides children and teens who may not be comfortable returning directly home with a welcoming bed, hot meal and warm shower. The new safe place will also allow us time to learn more about why a child may have chosen to leave and to connect the youth with any support they may need.
From this solid beginning we would like to see further recommendations focused on solving problems before children run away. In our experience, many missing and runaway youth have complex histories of multi-faceted trauma. Before youth go missing, they often suffer abuse, neglect, or mental and emotional health crises, are witnesses to domestic violence, are not succeeding in school, or are homeless. This difficult reality suggests that prevention efforts must be thoughtful, trauma-informed and evidenced-based. Improvements to the District’s mental health, child abuse and substance abuse programs, better special education services, a reduction in homelessness and eliminating extreme poverty are all reforms which would lead to fewer children running away or going missing.
We look forward to continuing our work with the Mayor, DC Council and our partners to ensure that the recommendations adopted also include prevention methods.”
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Children’s Law Center fights so every District child can grow up with a loving family, good health and a quality education. Judges, pediatricians and families turn to us to be the voice for children who are abused or neglected, who aren’t learning in school, or who have health problems that can’t be solved by medicine alone. With 100 staff and hundreds of pro bono lawyers, we reach one out of every nine children in DC’s poorest neighborhoods – more than 5,000 children and families each year. More information is available at www.ChildrensLawCenter.org
Contact: Katie Test Davis