I became a Student Fellow with the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (“CFCC”) in the middle of August. All the Student Fellows have been participating steadily and importantly in class discussions and projects. A major focus has been to reform the family justice system. For example, different approaches such as the Ecology of Human Development and Therapeutic Jurisprudence are fused together to create a more sustainable family justice system. Working with CFCC, I learned that all families and children ought to have an effective and efficient court system.
I have taken what I have learned and continue to learn and use the skills within CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP), in which I participate. I started my project with the TCP in the middle of September and have come a long way. I have had the privilege to work alongside the Honorable Yvette Bryant, Baltimore City Circuit Court Family Division, Judge-in-Charge. We pride ourselves in addressing the root causes of truant behavior and link families to needed social services or other community-based supports. Seeing the transformation of the students from week one to now week eight has been inspirational. For many of the students participating in the TCP, it is the first time someone has dedicated so much time and effort to help them succeed. Every week is a new challenge for the TCP team and for the students. We actually can see that the students are using the help and support with which they are provided. The students have been opening up more and are happy to start talking to the TCP team when they are doing well and are having a great week. Even when students have had a bad week or have missed unexcused days of school, they are starting to tell us right away and are offering solutions to their own problems so that they do not repeat the behavior. It is truly remarkable how the TCP is affecting the lives of many in a positive way. When the TCP team has to tell a student that we are disappointed in him/her, it leaves a long lasting impression. The student knows that the people across the table truly care and want to help.
There was one particular incident in which a student approached the TCP table with a parent. The parent clearly was not aware of the purpose of the TCP. As soon as the parent sat down, she had an attitude and would talk over the team members to make sure she was heard. The TCP team members began to explain one-by-one the goals we had for the student, why we were even involved in the school, and the resources we could offer. The main point we wanted to emphasize was that we were there to help. The parent began to settle down and actually listen to what the team members had to say. She grew very fond of the program and what it had to offer. The look on the parent’s face showed me that what we were doing was something special. It was as if she was asking, “Why are you taking time to help us?” She left the table with a completely different attitude and understanding. Since her first visit with us, she has attended the remainder of the TCP sessions.
Being a CFCC Student Fellow truthfully has been an amazing experience. I look forward to the discussions and the projects we explore. There have been many hands on experiences with CFCC field trips, which show the different areas of the family justice system. Some visits have included a tour of Baltimore City’s Family Division, observing Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court, and visiting Baltimore City’s Juvenile Justice Center. Each visit was very educational and an experience that I will not forget. I am proud to be a CFCC Student Fellow and look forward to continuing my Fellowship with University of Baltimore’s Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children, and the Courts.