Speak Up Workshops

COMPASS Youth Collaborative, Peacebuilders

CCA Attorney Kathryn Meyer, director of the Center’s Speak Up Project, worked with girls from Peacebuilders to address the stigma of mental health issues, help them learn about their legal rights and how to advocate for themselves, and to develop a strategy to meet their goals.

Connecticut Junior Republic – After School Juvenile Justice Diversion Program

CCA Attorney Zoe Stout worked with a group facilitator to conduct eight weeks of Speak Up meetings with girls at Connecticut Junior Republic’s (CJR) after-school juvenile justice diversion program. Girls learned about their legal rights, how to be strong advocates for themselves, and developed a focus for their efforts and a strategy to meet their goals.

Girls in the group at CJR chose to focus on Waterbury Schools’ discipline policy and worked to prepare for a meeting they conducted with Jackie Davis, Waterbury School District’s Director of School Based Diversion Initiatives. Here are the issues the girls addressed:

  • Taylor: Students should have the opportunity to provide feedback to administration on whether their teachers are meeting set expectations; suspension excludes students from education and should never be used as discipline for a dress code violation.
  • Cyaira: Allow students to select classes that prepare them for the career path they choose.
  • Rosa: Add after-school gender-specific support groups to help students feel socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually safe.
  • Dalilah: Change disciplinary options so students don’t miss class.

Skills learned help students be strong advocates for themselves as they take their places in the community.

ZS speakup feb 2017
Center for Children’s Advocacy Attorney Zoe Stout and girls from Connecticut Junior Republic – After School Juvenile Justice Diversion Program
The Village for Families and Children – Juvenile Review Board Program

Attorney Kathryn Meyer

Girls from the Village for Families and Children shared frustration with punitive school policies, which resulted in students feeling disengaged from the school community.  In their meeting with Hartford Schools’ Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, they emphasized the need for students to feel that school administrators and staff act fairly when handling student conflicts.  The group asked for more restorative justice opportunities to help resolve matters between students, and they wanted more staff trained to understand trauma and the backgrounds of students who may have dealt with trauma.

Journey House – Locked Residential Facility for Juvenile Justice Girls

Attorney Kathryn Meyer and Attorney Zoe Stout

Journey House residents face many challenges—including an overwhelming feeling that they are not “heard” in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.  During Speak Up sessions, the girls shared powerful stories about their pasts and their treatment by the systems designed to keep them safe.  Specifically, the girls wanted to have more say in their day-to-day lives in the facility, and asked for youth councils at residential placements.  They met with DCF officials and testified at the state legislature, asking for youth voice to be incorporated within facility decision-making.  DCF adopted the girls’ idea to create a “foster family profile” so children and youth would have some information about their foster family before being dropped off.  The girls in felt very empowered to see that their ideas engendered creation of state law.

Touchstone – Residential Treatment Facility for Juvenile Justice Girls

Attorney Kathryn Meyer

The young women at Touchstone identified a key issue that affected them and girls in similar positions with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems: girls leave placement and go “AWOL.”  The group discussed reasons for girls running away and talked about what could prevent this.  The group ultimately met with DCF officials and shared their ideas, which focused on the need for more intensive and accessible treatment for traumatic pasts.

For more information, contact Kathryn Meyer, JD, Director, Speak Up Initiatives