When the newly formed San Luis Obispo County local foster care commission decided the court needed a children's waiting room where attorneys, judges, and CASA advocates could interview young children in a non-intimidating environment, it found a shortage of appropriate space in the court building. That is, until Judge Ginger Garrett offered up her personal chambers for the project. According to Judge Garrett, she "wanted to create a child-friendly space to reduce stress for children who come to court." The room has been painted in a calming underwater theme by a local muralist and filled with educational toys and books. The waiting room, the local commission's first project, opened in late May.
The local commission chose to focus on two key Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations for its initial work: meaningful participation in court and exchanging data. Members are holding bi-monthly stakeholder meetings.
Other projects to increase meaningful participation in court, in addition to the children's waiting room (which garnered front page coverage in the local paper), include an informational parent orientation DVD. The script is complete, inspired by the Los Angeles DVD for parents, and they have an Americorps Promise fellow helping with the film. A local filmmaker offered to shoot the film for a dramatically reduced fee. The final 20-minute film will be shown at the local film festival. Copies of the DVD will be distributed to parents who come into the child welfare system. The commission has also instituted a process to ensure that children's attorneys are informed quickly about weekly foster care placements. This commission is truly showing what collaboration is all about!
For its focus on exchanging data, the local commission has begun work on a psychotropic drug protocol.
Children's Waiting Room:
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