In 2010 I testified against her becoming Chief Judge of Family Court. I feared that she was entrenched in a court culture that seems not to care about low-income litigants, that is especially catastrophic to battered mothers and traumatized children.
Frankly, I could not support any of the candidates for Chief, because the cases I had researched and watched unfold in their courtrooms suggested that none of them would confront the culture of cronyism and cabals that plagued the Family Court under Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr.
I will write more about those concerns later at the Trophy Child blog, but now I want to focus on the important departure Chief Bedrosian undertook this week with her statewide training that participants praised as transformative to their understanding of traumatized children and likely to change the way they work.
The Chief Judge, who was a teacher before she became a lawyer and judge, intends to have more trainings. Over five hundred professionals, including Family Court judges, lawyers, staff from DCYF, the Department of Education, Juvenile Corrections, the Offices of Child Advocate and Attorney General, and many others stayed from start to finish through two days packed with substantive information.
The open way she structured this conference may finally dismantle the silos that have kept Rhode Island's agencies and decision-makers closed off from each other far too long.
The keynote presentations by James E. Greer, MD, and Robert B. Hagberg, LICSW from The Mind + Body Project
Much of their message could also pertain to children traumatized, not only by parents, but--often far worse--by legal abuse and neglect after they have been caught up in the machinery of DCYF and Family Court.
A panel of former foster youth from the RI Foster Parents Association Youth Leadership Board spoke compellingly about their experiences and affirmed the need for more youth involvement in future trainings. Their motto could be the focus of an entire conference: "Nothing about us without us."
One teacher told me the training was full of A-ha! moments that helped her understand things going on in her classroom. The governor, a mayor, both U.S. senators brought words of strong affirmation.
Dr. Janice DeFrances, director of DCYF, was scheduled to speak on "Putting Children First" in the context of DCYF's educational initiatives, but could not attend due to a death in her family. But her leadership, alongside Chief Judge Bedrosian's, is key to the depth of content and the breadth of participation--judges alongside former foster youth, teachers and front-line staff.
Such a paradigm-shifting event signals new readiness to hold powerful decision-makers accountable to shared standards and to finally break through the cabals of court that have held sway too long.
That process will not be quick or easy, but it has finally begun.