Every day, hundreds of young children accompany caregivers to scheduled court appearances. In Court, the children may be exposed to disturbing proceedings, and their presence can be a distraction from judicial business. If kept outside of the courtroom, children may endure boredom and discomfort in waiting areas.
In response, the New York State Unified Court system developed the nation’s first statewide system of cheerful, welcoming Children’s Centers in the courts. The Centers provide a safe, literacy-rich environment and an opportunity for positive interventions in the lives of vulnerable children.
Research shows that many of the children brought to court are five years or younger, poor, and not receiving vital services -- including health, educational and nutritional benefits -- to which they and their families are entitled. Centers regularly facilitate connections between families and services such as Head Start, WIC, food stamps, literacy and other community services. The Children’s Centers have truly turned a problem into a possibility, with positive outcomes for families.
Our mission is to provide:
- A safe, supportive haven for children in the courthouse; and
- A vehicle for connecting families to needed services.
Local community agencies, which include some of New York's premier child care organizations, provide day-to-day operation and supervision in the Centers under contract with the Unified Court System.
The project was initiated in 1994 by the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children and is currently administered by the Office of Court Administration’s Division of Professional and Court Services, Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Court Improvement. The project continues to operate with the support, advice and counsel of the Commission.
For those interested in developing a program, the Permanent Judicial Commission has developed a step-by-step manual for program development entitled: "A Good Place for Children: A Guide to Starting, Building and Operating Children's Centers for New York's Courts".
For a copy of this publication or for further information on volunteering or assisting in other ways contact us at the address above.
Office of Court Administration
Professional and Court Services
Children's Centers Program
50 Market Street, 2nd Floor
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601