2019 Janet Reno Forum

On July 16, 2019, the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University, hosted the 2019 Janet Reno Forum. The event, which was co-sponsored by Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP) and attended by more than 200 participants (including researchers, policy makers, youth advocates, and juvenile justice system and child welfare practitioners), explored the following central question: what exactly does the ideal juvenile justice system look like and how do we get there?

Over the course of the day and across four panels, panelists and attendees alike worked through a multi-system approach to this overarching question. Experts from around the U.S. presented their considerable professional knowledge and experiences while leading thought-provoking discussions in four key areas of juvenile justice reform, including:

  • Achieving equitable treatment and fairness
  • Promoting developmental approaches
  • Engaging and empowering youth and families
  • Collaborating across systems of care, including education, behavioral health and child welfare

You can find a more detailed description of each panel below.

Achieving Equitable Treatment and Fairness

At the heart of our nation’s democratic ideals is the notion that all individuals are entitled to equal protection under the law. In the context of juvenile justice policy and practice, this commitment to equity and fairness derives not only from constitutional and moral imperatives but also serves as an essential strategy for achieving positive outcomes for youth, families and communities. This panel explored what a fair and just juvenile justice system looks like—one that ensures that youth and families are treated equitably regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and other characteristics. Panelists discussed how attorneys, law enforcement officers, juvenile justice agency staff, and judges can advance this fundamental guiding principle, including efforts designed to address individuals’ biases and eliminate disparities faced by youth of color.

Promoting Developmental Approaches

A growing body of research teaches us that juvenile justice systems must fully embrace developmental approaches—that is, services, programs, policies and practices that acknowledge the distinct differences between adults and youth and that are tailored to support youth’s transition to adulthood in a strength-based manner. As highlighted by the National Research Council in its seminal piece six years ago, “Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach,” embodying a developmental framework can help systems achieve the goals of holding youth accountable for their actions, preventing recidivism, and treating youth fairly. This panel discussed key dimensions of a positive youth development approach, including how to establish strength-based relationships between staff and youth, and how to account for and respond to the impact of trauma on the developing child.

Engaging and Empowering Youth and Families

Partnering with youth and families is a proven and essential strategy for achieving enhanced outcomes for system-involved individuals and communities. Elevating the voices of system consumers not only leads to increased youth and family engagement and trust with system staff and approaches, but also provides officials with key insight to drive system improvement efforts. This panel examined how juvenile justice staff and partners can meaningfully engage and empower youth and families at the case practice and systems levels.

Collaborating with System Partners

In most jurisdictions, youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system simultaneously touch other systems, including education, child welfare, and behavioral health. In order to maximize resources and lessen burdens on youth and families, it is therefore essential that juvenile justice staff work with their system counterparts to operate coordinated, cross-system practices and approaches. This panel explored how juvenile justice staff can work with partners in education, child welfare, and behavioral health to break down silos, increase information sharing, and collaborate to provide seamlessly integrated services and supports to youth and families.

A Roadmap to the Ideal Juvenile Justice System

The direction of the discussion was guided by CJJR’s newest publication, “A Roadmap to the Ideal Juvenile Justice System” which was released at the Forum. Authored by Tim Decker, in collaboration with the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network and CJJR staff, this paper lays out the guiding principles and strategies for the ideal juvenile justice system, while providing a plethora of practical examples of these ideals in action.

We are proud to present the publication to the wider public. You can download a digital copy below. We encourage you to share with your colleagues!

A Roadmap to the Ideal Juvenile Justice System

Presentation of the 2019 Janet Reno Women’s Leadership Award

As part of the Forum, Maggy Hurchalla, sister of the late Janet Reno, joined Dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy, Maria Cancian, to present the Forum’s third annual Janet Reno Endowment Women’s Leadership Award to Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center.

The Janet Reno Endowment Women’s Leadership Award honors a woman leader who has demonstrated a commitment and ability to effect change in her community or organization to benefit youth, particular those at risk of entering the juvenile justice or child welfare systems.

Forum attendees had the opportunity to hear remarks from the inspirational Ms. Goss Graves who has spent her career fighting to advance opportunities for women and girls. Her passionate, dedicated leadership has helped to promote a number of issues central to gender justice, including ending sexual harassment, alleviating the systemic barriers to income equality for women and families, and promoting youth’s equal access to education.

In particular, Ms. Goss Graves has worked to advance educational opportunities for girls and change the public’s understanding of the challenges girls of color experience in school, including the school-to-prison pipeline. Her work was critical to the adoption of a White House initiative that detailed requirements and provided resources for schools related to girls who have experienced trauma, girls subjected to unfair discipline and corporal punishment in schools, pregnant and parenting students, and students who have experienced harassment and violence.
Ms. Goss Graves’ commitment to serving as a champion for women and girls over the years has truly been remarkable, which aligns so well with the career and legacy of Attorney General Janet Reno.


2019 Agenda


2019 Speaker Bios


2019 Publication