Statement of Beliefs
The Children’s Law Center is a unique organization which was created out of the identified need for increased legal advocacy for children. While the field of children’s advocacy has somewhat expanded since the Center’s inception, we recognize that continued emphasis on why children are different and how their individualized needs should be addressed should serve as the core of our approach to service delivery. Within the core elements of our work, we acknowledge certain key concepts about the systems in which we work:
That there are fundamental developmental differences between youth and adults, and that our systems should promote and utilize adolescent development research to facilitate healthy development and address the needs, characteristics and assets of youth rather than relying upon modalities used for adults.
That we and other service providers and decision makers must respond to young peoples’ differences from one another in terms of development, culture, gender, needs and strengths. Interventions and services must be tailored to the needs and assets of individual youth and focused on facilitating positive outcomes. As such, eliminating the unnecessary use of incarceration and out of home care, meeting behavioral health needs, and creating positive strength-based programs for youth are essential.
That representation should be holistic and sensitive to gender, sexual orientation, and ethnic or cultural differences. Meeting the needs of the child irrespective of what “system” they appear within is an important characteristic of service delivery.
That youth in the juvenile justice system are entitled to a just process which ensures due process and equal protection at every stage of the proceeding – from first contact with law enforcement to issues involving incarceration, to parole decisions and parole revocation hearings – and have meaningful access to zealous representation and advocacy to protect these rights.
That in a fair, rational and effective system, factors correlated with the disproportionate contact and incarceration of youth of color are identified and addressed. Youth must be treated equitably across settings regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, geographic origin or economic status.
That all children and youth should have a safe and permanent home, the opportunity to engage with siblings and extended family when possible, and enjoy stability in school, friends and community involvement to the extent possible. When removal from home is necessary, youth should be placed in the least restrictive environment and one which facilitates contact with families and other significant support persons whenever possible and appropriate.
That the importance of education in the lives of children to foster developmental, social, behavioral and academic achievements, and increase the potential for productive employment and career achievement cannot be overestimated. All youth regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, geographic origin or economic status must have access to education programming which provides meaningful benefit.
That the concept of positive behavioral supports and other strength based interventions in schools are desirable and have better outcomes for children rather than harsh disciplinary practices.