All too often, systems meant to serve youth harm them – and when they do, youth need zealous advocates in their corner. Founded in 1975, Juvenile Law Center is an internationally recognized advocacy organization for youth and was the first children’s rights public interest law firm in the country.
Building on Proven Success
Our priorities: This plan emphasizes our priority of keeping youth in their homes and communities and out of the child welfare and justice systems. It continues our work of reducing harm to those youth who are system involved. And it launches new work on imagining alternatives that support well-being rather than imposing systems of policing, incarceration, and institutionalization.
Juvenile Law Center uses multiple approaches to accomplish our ends: legal advocacy, policy advocacy, youth-led advocacy, and strategic communications. Our strategies are interconnected. We pair impact litigation with policy advocacy and community organizing to push for lasting and transformative change. Our policy agenda is informed by—and often conducted in collaboration with—youth, family members, and grassroots partners. Our youth advocacy campaigns respond to legal and policy opportunities in the field. In all our work, we seek out strategic communications opportunities to enhance the work and to shape public opinion. We seek opportunities across the country to work where we can respond to identified needs in the community, build on local partnerships, leverage legislative and legal reform opportunities and create momentum for change.
We know this approach works. Our prior successes include: case law in the U.S. Supreme Court and throughout the states recognizing that youth need special protections; federal, state, and local policies that keep youth at home, protect them from harm, and help them grow into healthy adults; and a children’s rights advocacy field that increasingly relies on the voices of youth with direct experience in the child welfare and justice systems.
Deepening Our Commitment to Equity
Today’s inequities in the child welfare and justice systems are rooted in cruel and discriminatory practices that date back to slavery and have been reinforced decade after decade. The results are systems that fail youth of all backgrounds, but disproportionately harm youth already marginalized by society, including Black and Brown youth, LGBTQ+ youth, and youth with disabilities. This plan heightens our commitment to confronting inequity and partnering with youth, families, and communities most affected by these policies.
Embracing an Abolition Framework
Our 47 years working in the child welfare and juvenile justice space has proven to us time and again that these systems are harmful and irredeemable. Therefore, in this strategic plan, we work to limit the reach of, and ultimately abolish these systems to direct resources instead to youth, families and communities. Because youth still face immediate harm in these systems, we also engage in harm reduction efforts.
When children thrive, communities thrive. Together, we can stand up for rights, dignity, equity, and opportunity for youth nationwide.