Justice for Children is a national child advocacy organization with headquarters in Houston, Texas. It was founded in 1987 by Randy Burton, a former Chief Prosecutor of the Family Offenses Section of the Harris County District Attorney’s office, and a group of concerned citizens within the community in response to the inadequacies and failure of child protective system to protect abused and neglected children.
Today, Justice for Children continues to support the abused and neglected child. We remain unique in our purpose: we advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children whose plight is known to the relevant agencies but who are still not being protected. Because our advocacy for a child is not dependent on court appointments, we can work for the child’s safety and protection long before the case arrives in a court. Our early intervention can make an enormous difference in a child’s life, because by the time a case gets to court, it’s often too late.
Justice for Children works closely with adults who are trying to protect an abused or neglected child. Individuals call asking for our assistance and guidance through a system that is often overwhelming, especially due to the emotional and traumatic events that are taking place in such a child’s life. Often, protective adults have nowhere else to turn for guidance and assistance through the maze of bureaucratic agencies and a legal system that is too often stacked against the child. There are no fees to the client for our services.
It is deeply troubling that, of the children who died from abuse or neglect, 40% to 50% were already known to be abused, or at serious risk of abuse, by the system that was charged with their protection. Throughout the country, many thousands of children are being failed by an inadequate child protective system.
Any programmatic response to the critical problem of child abuse and neglect faces numerous obstacles, including:
- The “child protective system” consists of a tangled web of agencies and jurisdictions, with different procedures and priorities. In some cases, various responsible agencies believes another is protecting the child, while in fact none of them are.
- There are inconsistent definitions, procedures, and data collection standards across jurisdictions and agencies, which undermines provision of services for abused and neglected children.
- The general public has a poor understanding of the legal, socioeconomic, developmental,and medical dimensions of child maltreatment, and there are even serious gaps in knowledge and understanding among key professionals dealing with abused children.
- Funding is being slashed in response to calls for austerity, debt reduction and smaller government. In some cases, this truly impedes agency responsiveness; in others, it serves as an excuse for under performance.
Justice for Children provides a full range of advocacy and services for abused and neglected children, including legal advocacy, public policy monitoring, guidance through a complex child protective system, professional referrals, mental health services, court watch, research, education, and emotional support.
Justice for Children assists and refers several thousand callers annually through the complicated and unsympathetic maze of governmental agencies established to protect abused children. Advocating for an abused or neglected child takes on many different forms of participation and involvement. These include researching and gathering supporting documentation; reviewing supporting documentation; referring persons to professionals; guiding them through the legal and judicial process; initiating child abuse investigations; generating advocacy correspondence and amicus briefs; and acting as facilitator of professional services.
Justice for Children has proposed and drafted legislation to improve the laws pertaining not only to child abuse and child protection, but also laws concerning the funding for protective services. We have also presented legislation designed to make the legal process more child-friendly. Additionally, because of its experience in this area, Justice for Children receives numerous requests to provide testimony regarding various pieces of legislation around the country.
Justice for Children is involved in a variety of legal research projects and has contributed to amicus briefs, researching legal issues and providing data on important legal issues affecting the rights of abused children.
Justice for Children has traditionally provided information and materials to combat child abuse and to educate the public of the signs and symptoms of child abuse or neglect in its efforts to interrupt its dismal cycle. In 2012, it is initiating a project called “Just in Time”, to develop a series of informational and instructional modules to be placed on its website. Each is designed specifically to aid a field on the front lines of identifying and re-mediating child abuse: the community, medical first responders, school personnel, pediatricians, court personnel, and counseling professionals.
We seek to collaborate with other concerned national and community leaders, professionals, institutions, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies to further a common goal of solving the deficiencies in our present child protective systems. By expanding our relationships within the community and on a national level, we are working to create a system that will effectively handle a child’s initial report of abuse, provide immediate safety, and ultimately, prosecute and convict the child abuser. In 2012, we are planning to host a series of workshops bringing together various agencies with an interest in child abuse, to share ideas and develop closer working relationships and maximize he impact of all of them in the shared goal of protecting children from re-abuse.
Justice for Children’s expert opinion continues to be recognized and valued by local and national media, legal and medical professionals, child abuse experts, and various other children’s rights organizations. We have been featured on ABC’s Primetime Live, ABC’s prime-time documentary entitled ‘Crimes Against Children,’ a PBS documentary entitled ‘Boy Crying, Baby Crying,” as well as appearances on Good Morning America, Donahue, the Discovery channel’s “Justice Files,’ HBO and in 2011, the BBC.