OJJDP's National Girls Institute Holds First Listening Session

Photo of a girlIn FY 2010, OJJDP awarded a 3-year, $1.5-million grant to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency to establish the National Girls Institute (NGI). The Institute will provide training and technical assistance to programs that address the needs of girls involved in the juvenile justice system. NGI will also disseminate information; collaborate with researchers and program developers; form partnerships with federal, state, tribal, and local agencies; and develop policy.

During its initial grant year, NGI will create an advisory group composed of nationally recognized experts, including tribal experts; launch an NGI Web site; and conduct a nationwide assessment of the current training, technical assistance, and information needs of state, tribal, and local entities serving at-risk and delinquent girls. The assessment process will be carried out through approximately 25 listening sessions throughout the country in urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas.

NGI held its first listening session on March 3, 2011, in Washington, DC. Facilitated by NGI's Lawanda Ravoira and Vanessa Patino Lydia, and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights' Shakira Washington, the session covered the following topics:

  • Trauma (e.g., sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and child abuse and neglect) and its role in girls' subsequent substance abuse and homelessness; and the need for gender-responsive and trauma-informed services for girls in every facet of juvenile justice (prevention, intervention, reentry).
  • Systemic failures to address trauma (e.g., a lack of counseling services, of early intervention in schools, and of timely and/or effective intervention on the part of child welfare agencies and law enforcement); and the need for agencies across the spectrum—juvenile justice, child welfare, education, law enforcement, advocacy groups, and community organizations—to work collaboratively.
  • The need to document through evidence-based research which gender-specific programs are of real help to girls. Participants identified the upcoming OJJDP National Conference in October 2011 as an important forum to address this issue.

The findings of the listening sessions will ground the development of programs and policies in the second and third years of the OJJDP grant. "The first listening session reinforced the important role young women must play in developing our collective knowledge and understanding," said Catherine Pierce, Associate Administrator for OJJDP's Child Protection Division. "It is so important for us to listen to girls across the nation and to include girls as partners in the work of NGI."