Family Engagement Conference

September 10, 2014

SEIU Local 32 BJ, District 615
26 West Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02111


Keynote Speaker: Grace Bauer, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Justice for Families

Panel Discussion:
Moderator: Chris Jones, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative
Ryan Shanahan, Vera Institute for Justice
Kathy Pilarsky, Parent
Yvonne Sparling, Massachusetts Department of Youth Services
Meri Viano, Parent/Professional Advocacy League

engaging families in the Massachusetts juvenile justice system

On September 10, 2014, families of youth in the juvenile justice system, Department of Youth Services and Probation staff, attorneys, community-based service providers, and advocates came together to discuss realities and reforms for families involved in the juvenile justice system. 

Keynote speaker Grace Bauer spoke about how her son’s harrowing experience in the Louisiana juvenile justice system led her to join with other families to shut down the facility where he was incarcerated and achieve other important system reform. The panel then discussed social science research, personal experiences, advocacy efforts, and systemic reforms to better understand the impact the juvenile justice system has families and how to improve families' engagement in the system.

Following the panel was a break-out session, where participants identified priorities for improving family engagement and outlined steps towards solutions, including:

  • More consistent communication between families and system players
  • A parent advocate in each juvenile court
  • Training for families so that they are empowered advocates
  • Training for law enforcement, judges, and other players on topics such as trauma and engaging families
  • Attorneys available 24-7 so that families have someone to consult immediately after their child is arrested
  • Peer mentors to support both youth and families
  • Eliminating zero tolerance policies

Thanks to all who came, spoke, and participated!