The Hawai`i Girls Court Program - Founding Judge’s Message
"Welcome to the Girls Court website. This website is to be for, by, and about our girls and women in Hawai`i and their families. The website will show a brief pictorial history of some of the highlights of the Girls Court program.
I am so privileged to be the Presiding Judge of Girls Court which is one of the first courts of its kind in the entire nation. Girls Court seeks to build on the strengths of our girls and address the challenges our girls face. As you can see from this site, it is a goal worth pursuing. I want to thank our girls, their families, the Girls Court staff and the people who work with us for their insight, their commitment and their energy.
Stay tuned! There are lots of good things to come. We trust in the underlying strength and resiliency of our girls and their continued growth.
Once you’ve explored our website and you have further questions, we welcome your contact."
Girls Court Founding Judge
Judge Karen M. Radius
The Hawai`i Girls Court Program - Presiding Judge’s Message
"I am honored to be the Presiding Judge of Girls Court. We provide trauma-informed care to the girls and their families, and seek to create places of healing for them. By guiding the girls to discover what their gifts are, we aim to identify ways to help them feel intelligent, competent, creative, and unique. Every cohort is an incredible year of metamorphosis. The positive changes are a result of the trust and commitment of the girls and their families, the devoted Girls Court team, and the generous, marvelous people we partner with in the community.
Behold the beautiful butterflies~~our young women!! There is much to celebrate. We are so proud of all of the girls, and we will continue to support them in their journey through life."
Girls Court Presiding Judge
Judge Jennifer Ching
What is Girls Court?
The Family Court of the First Judicial Circuit formed a Girls Court Task Force in 2004 to address the needs of Hawai`i’s at-risk girls and female offenders and ensure that they are adequately considered in policy and programming. The Hawai`i Girls Court began as a volunteer pilot project in September 2004 to serve as both a specialty court as well as a laboratory to design gender-specific policies, programs and services to achieve outcomes that more successfully and effectively target at-risk and delinquent girls.
In March 2005, the Hawai`i Office of Youth Services, which is the state agency designated to administer federal funds and state general funds for youth programs in Hawai`i, awarded Girls Court Juvenile Accountability Block Grant funds to hire dedicated staff to continue to develop and enhance our program.
Open Court: The Hawai`i Girls Court convenes once every 5 weeks with the presiding judge. Court sessions are held in an open court setting with the girls, their families, attorneys and probation officers present. These court sessions serve to provide positive reinforcement of their strengths and accomplishments as well as a method for imposing graduated sanctions and creating accountability for the girls. The open court setting allows for the girls to learn from and share each others’ experiences, successes, and challenges. It provides an innovative and effective base from which positive and permanent behavioral and cognitive changes can be made.
Girls Groups/Parents Groups: After Court, and at other times throughout the year, the girls meet in a group session covering topics such as teen pregnancy prevention, domestic violence prevention and intervention, healing from trauma, substance abuse issues and problems, HIV/AIDS and STDs prevention, and escaping sexual exploitation. In addition to sessions after court every four weeks, the girls also have other regularly scheduled group sessions and scheduled activities.
Following each Court session, the parents are required to attend a parent group which focuses on areas such as developing parenting skills, conflict resolution skills, and informational sessions on educational and therapeutic services available for their daughters or family.
The Girls Court requires parents to be parties to the case and legally requires their active participation in the Court. This innovative and holistic approach to juvenile justice, results in more stable families and, ultimately, sustainable progress and improved relationships between the girls and their parents. This type of parental involvement is central to the Girls Court.
Group Activities: Additional group sessions and activities for the girls are scheduled throughout the month. Girls Court actively connects and partners with resources in the community. Activities and services that the Hawai`i Girls Court offers the girls and their families provide a powerful context for girls to build relationship skills and maintain healthy relationships. Moreover, group activities promote team-building and positive personal growth as well as help the girls develop decision making and self-confidence skills. (See Link to Activities for more details and to learn the goals these activities support).
Mental Heath Services: Mental Health Services are a critical component of the continuum of care that Girls Court offers to help the girls and families develop in healthy and positive ways. Because a majority of the girls in the juvenile justice system have experienced sexual, emotional, and/or physical abuse, recognizing and treating issues related to the abuse, from which many maladaptive behaviors stem, is critical in the continuum of care. Individual and family therapy is provided by the Girls Court therapist. The Girls Court staff also coordinates with private therapists and school counselors, and drug treatment providers to work for the success of the whole girl.
Education/Employment: Girls learn of the importance of education and opportunities for women in non-traditional learning and employment for their future. Girls are required to return to school or enroll in alternative learning centers or pursue a General Education Diploma (GED). Staff work with the schools and parents and develop an appropriate Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when necessary.
Many of the Girls Court girls have gone on to attend community college. Others have entered the work force with a positive view that they can accomplish their goals.
Community Service Projects: The girls and their families are required to engage in quarterly community service activities along with the Girls Court staff and the Judge. This provides the girls, their families, and court staff further opportunities to connect positively with one another as well as with diverse community members and organizations. The girls learn that what they do does matter and that they can make a difference by giving back to the community (Visit our Activities page for more details).
Cross-System Training: Girls Court coordinates cross-system trainings extended to statewide and communitywide youth serving agencies to build skills and augment awareness of the need for gender-responsive services.
Components of Hawai`i Girls Court Programming
The Hawai`i Girls Court aims to hold girls accountable for their actions while building on their strengths and reconnecting them to healthy peer, family, and adult relationships as well as to positive activities. To holistically address the needs of the girls and ensure that services are gender-responsive, the Hawai`i Girls Court incorporates the following essential components in its programming:
- A positive, gender-responsive workplace.
- A safe, supportive, and nurturing environment that encourages trust, bonding, and connection.
- Input from the girls and their parents are encouraged in the design, implementation and evaluation of the program as well as planning of individualized treatment plans for each girl.
- A strengths-based approach to treatment and skill building.
- Utilization of gender-responsive assessment tools and individualized treatment plans that match appropriate treatment with the identified needs/assets of each girl.
- Domestic violence counseling.
- Therapeutic modalities and approaches (based upon relational theories) that address issues such as healing from physical, sexual and emotional abuse, family conflict, substance abuse, depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, and self-injurious behaviors.
- Opportunities and support to develop skills in a range of educational and vocational areas and link with alternative learning opportunities.
- Positive female role models and mentors.
- An emphasis on activities that focus on empowerment, self-respect, and self-efficacy.
- Education and counseling related to heath (pregnancy, nutrition, stress management, HIV/AIDS, STDs).
- Emphasis on parental involvement and education. Assisting parents to develop effective strategies for communication and conflict resolution.
- Ongoing staff and system-wide training in female development issues and gender-responsive service delivery.
- Internship for Social Work students to gain knowledge and experience in gender-responsive service delivery and case management.