2007 Dallas Youth at Risk Roundtable
The 2007 American Bar Association ("ABA") President, Karen Mathis, made it a priority of her term in office to find ways that the law and the legal community can better identify and support America's at-risk young people. To lead this initiative, she established the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk to undertake a year-long effort to identify the challenges facing this population (particularly those in the 13 through 19 year age range) that greatly elevate their "risk." President Mathis chose to highlight youth at risk because of the serious problems our nation’s
ABA President, Karen J. Mathis, discusses purpose of ABA Commission on Youth at Risk.
youth face, such as severe abuse, chronic neglect, domestic violence within their families, desperately poor and violent neighborhoods, serious unmet mental health needs, gangs, and poor educational and employment options. These problems place youth in the United States at high risk for entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems. She strongly believes that lawyers can and should use their legal expertise to work and volunteer in activities that will enhance the policies, practices, and programs designed to help prevent teens from becoming delinquent. President Mathis also endorses collaboration between lawyers, other professionals and community leaders who serve youth so that prevention, intervention and treatment programs can be improved for youth and their families.
As part of the ABA’s mission, the Commission on Youth at Risk established “Youth at Risk Roundtables” across the country in an effort to bring together various professionals who work with youth at risk. The roundtables are intended to establish an open dialogue to identify local issues affecting youth, as well as innovative solutions on how to combat these complex issues. On May 23, 2007, the Dallas Youth at Risk Roundtable was hosted by the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic on the SMU Dedman School of Law campus. Over
President Mathis thanks Jessica Dixon for organizing the Dallas Youth at Risk Roundtable.
twenty child welfare professionals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, including judges, CASA executive directors, a juvenile public defender, the chief juvenile district attorney, social workers, religious leaders, and other non-profit community leaders convened with special guest, ABA President Karen Mathis. Jessica Dixon, the Clinic’s Director, moderated the two hour dialogue between professionals about meeting the needs of youth aging out of foster care and combating truancy in the Dallas Independent School District.
There was great dialogue between professionals on such topics as areas of growth for foster youth in transition and truancy in the Dallas Independent School District. Some of the areas that were mentioned regarding youth at risk include:
- youth aging out of foster care
- literacy programs
- need for emergency shelter
- free tutoring for youth at risk
- better connection between services
- increase mentoring/volunteering
- parent education
2007 Dallas Youth at Risk Roundtable gets underway with various leaders in the child welfare and juvenile justice area.
How can the legal community can do its part?
- expand the number of externships available to law students that focus on organizations that work with youth at risk
- encourage retired lawyers work pro bono with various service organizations
- recruit more lawyers or law students to serve as mentors to youth at risk
- create a database of web information that professionals serving youth can access (see www.texaslawyersforchildren.org)
- create a statewide Commission on Youth at Risk.
The W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic will continue to host roundtables to support more cross-collaborative efforts between professionals who serve youth at risk in the North Texas area.
Upcoming Youth at Risk Roundtables
There was a two hour Youth at Risk Roundtable held on September 21, 2007 onthe topic of Truancy in Dallas County. The purpose of this roundtable was to determine if there are additional ways that lawyers and the community can assist in decreasing the number of truant youth in Dallas County. The roundtable was well attended by key players in the fight against truancy, including three Truancy Court Magistrates, Dallas Independent School District Truancy Director, Dallas County Truancy Court Social Service Coordinator, a Lieutenant from the Dallas Police Department, Letot Center Supervisor and Counselor, and other non-profit organizations. Mentoring programs, educational programs for parents, and volunteer attorney programs were discussed. Updates on project ideas developed at this roundtable are forthcoming.
The next roundtable is will be on the topic of Aging Out of Foster Care. The purpose of this roundtable is to determine what types of collaborative effort are needed to address various issues identified during the first Youth at Risk Roundtable regarding kids aging out of the foster care system. Literacy programs, emergency housing, free tutoring, and improvement of communication between youth service providers will be discussed. The date and time are to be announced.
If you are interested in attending any future roundtables, please contact Kathy Lowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.