A Small Group Can Create Change
National Girls' Caucus

In response to the lack of services for girls in the justice system, the National Girls' Caucus convened its first meeting in March 1993, in Washington, DC, with funding provided by the Valentine Foundation. Gathered together for the first time were child advocates, policymakers, national authorities on gender issues, service providers, educators, legislators, judges, funders, religious leaders, parents, and girls. Participants came together for two common purposes: to address the lack of services for girls in the justice system and to unite forces to ensure gender equity for young women involved in the justice system. The participants soon learned the power of a small group united for a common purpose.

In response to the lack of services, the National Girls' Caucus was formed to ensure equitable treatment.

Roundtables, Workshops, and Retreats

The first National Girls' Caucus Roundtable was held in Orlando, FL, in October 1994. At the roundtable, 100 concerned citizens learned about several nationally recognized residential and nonresidential prevention, intervention, and treatment programs for girls. Experts led interactive workshops with adults and girls to address the pressing concerns of inadequate access to healthcare, the need for a continuum of services for girls and young women, and the impact of violence in the lives of girls. Interest in the caucus grew from 100 individuals to 1,000 individuals and agencies across the Nation. Individuals who felt isolated in their communities experienced the positive impact of networking with other individuals from various States who were grappling to address the needs of girls. Resources were freely shared and the group united with a common mission. Examples of the types of diverse resources shared with individuals and agencies around the country include the following:

Bullet SISTA'S Womanhood Training, Inc., a 12-week curriculum utilizing workshops and seminars, includes topics such as banking and finance, HIV/AIDS and STD's, substance abuse to include fetal alcohol syndrome, health, nutrition, violence, and conflict resolution. Other topics include dating, pre- and postnatal care, etiquette, personal hygiene, respect, and values.

Bullet The Female Intervention Team provides a gender-specific approach to treating young women who are adjudicated delinquent or are committed to the Baltimore, MD, juvenile justice system. A user-friendly staff training manual has been developed and shared with individuals and agencies around the country.

Bullet St. Croix Girls Camp seeks to intervene in the lives of girls whose behavior and/or family situations necessitate temporary removal from the community. The camp assists girls in effectively communicating with adults and forming healthy interpersonal, peer, and family relationships.

Bullet PACE Center for Girls, Inc., shares strategies for implementing gender-competent programming in any type of facility. The SMARTGIRLS! curriculum, which has been presented at and shared by the center, is one of the first curriculums to focus on the benefits of being young and female instead of focusing on the negative aspects. The goal is to help the girls gain a better understanding of the choices they can make to ensure a safe and successful future. PACE also provides fundraising and grant-writing resources and strategies.

In July 1995, a Strategic Planning Retreat was held in Orlando, FL, to determine the caucus' future direction. Participants adopted a mission statement to guide the caucus' work: focus national attention on the unique needs of girls and young women who are at risk or in the justice system in order to create change.

Caucus Goals

Bullet To impact public policy, resource allocation, and research in order to improve the quality of care and services for girls.

Bullet To ensure culturally sensitive, gender-specific programming for girls and young women so they have the opportunity to lead healthy, productive, and safe lives.

Bullet To ensure fairness in the justice system by eliminating gender, ethnic, and racial biases.

Bullet To raise public awareness regarding the need for gender-appropriate programming and service for girls.

The caucus formed four working committees comprising members from around the country. Committee structure and assignments include the following:

Girl Bullet Public Education/Public Relations Committee. To create a market position and establish alliances within the justice system and with external organizations to promote the mission of the caucus.

Bullet Professional Education and Training Committee. To provide the opportunity for professional training and development of members and the general public; market the gender equity model workshop; develop minimum standards for gender-competent programming; and sponsor annual conferences that focus on girls and young women in the justice system.

Bullet Public Policy Committee. To cultivate supportive political relations at the national, State, and local levels to advocate for legislation that supports gender equity in the justice system.

Bullet Program Committee. To identify needs, solutions, innovative programs, and intervention strategies to address the needs of girls.