group of seven adults, four women and three men smiling
Staff of the Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (CFCC.)

A local organization that helps families navigating the court and legal system has won the Impact of the Year Award from the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ).

The Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) was presented with the award on July 18, 2023 at the 9th annual Justice Innovation Awards Ceremony during the NCJFCJ’s 86th Annual Conference in Baltimore. It recognizes and honors CFCC’s “exceptional efforts in rethinking, reimagining, and redefining justice for children and families,” according to the press announcement.

CCFC was founded in 2000 within the University of Baltimore School of Law. Its mission is to support families, communities, and the legal system in ways that improve the lives of children and families. Their website describes a focus on encouraging “lawyers and judges to apply the law and legal processes in ways that account for the complex circumstances that affect individuals’ and families’ lives.” In so doing, they hope to prevent “unnecessary legal system involvement” in the lives of children and their families.

This award spotlights the work of the center to prevent the legal system from separating children from their families. CCFC cites the permanent trauma children and parents suffer from such separation by state intervention, and the center’s goal is to “keep families intact and support their health and well-being,” according to their website.

One of the early tools CCFC launched is the Truancy Court Program: a voluntary, non-punitive, holistic, and data-driven program meant to intervene and interrupt potential truancy by addressing the root cause for each child. The program addresses behavior and attitudes towards school and helps foster long-term academic success. CCFC provides counseling, crisis assistance, access to legal aid, social services, and mentoring through the Truancy Court Program, an early iteration of “wrap-around services” supporting the entire family unit.

“The NCJFCJ is proud to recognize CFCC’s dedication to redefining justice for children and families with programs that are making a profound difference in the lives of those they serve,” said NCJFCJ’s president, Judge Gayl Branum Carr. “It is truly commendable. We applaud the organization for advancing the NCJFCJ’s vision of a society where every family and child has access to fair, equal, effective, and timely justice.”

The NCJFCJ was founded in 1937. The Reno, Nevada-based council is the nation’s oldest judicial membership and education organization focused on improving the effectiveness of the nation’s juvenile and family courts.