Los Angeles, California - Last Thursday, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the formation of the Bureau of Children’s Justice within the California Department of Justice. The Bureau will increase support for vulnerable children, work with stakeholders to improve policies affecting children, and enforce California’s civil and criminal laws with respect to California’s foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice systems; discrimination and inequities in education; California’s elementary school truancy crisis; human trafficking of vulnerable youth; and childhood trauma and exposure to violence.
Attorney General Kamala Harris was joined by leaders of state and national organizations at a press conference in Los Angeles unveiling the bureau and other leaders from across the state and country are applauding this important step.
Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund:
“The newly established Bureau of Children’s Justice will help ensure that many more California children, now at great risk of entering the state’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline, will benefit from new protection and supports they need to meet their full potential and succeed in school and in life.”
Ted Lempert, President of Children Now:
“We are thrilled that Attorney General Harris is making children her top priority with this new Bureau. Given the Attorney General's past leadership and success with reducing chronic absence and suspensions in California, I’m confident the new Bureau will be very positive for children.”
Diana S. Dooley, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency:
“I’m happy to join Attorney General Harris in shining a spotlight on the importance of safeguarding our children. We at the California Health and Human Services Agency place a high interest and priority on addressing childhood trauma and we are committed with our county and community partners to meet the needs of all of our kids.”
Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment:
“I commend Attorney General Harris for taking this important step to protect the youngest and most vulnerable Californians. The Bureau of Children’s Justice will watch over our state’s legal system and guarantee greater protection for our children, safeguarding their physical, social and emotional health and helping to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to grow up healthy and safe.”
Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria):
"I applaud Attorney General Harris for investing in children and preventing them from ever becoming involved with the justice system as victims or perpetrators of crime. As the chair of the API Legislative Caucus, I am painfully aware of the threat crime poses to Asian American and Pacific Islander children, specifically when it comes to discrimination, bullying, and human trafficking. This is a good step in the right direction to protect all of California's children."
Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr. (D-Los Angeles):
“It is essential that our children are protected and that we take a proactive approach to that protection. As the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color and the Legislative Black Caucus, I believe the Bureau of Children’s Justice will take an active role in protecting our at-risk children in California.”
Esta Soler, President and Founder of Futures Without Violence:
“The creation of this Bureau for Children’s Justice is a smart strategy that ensures our most vulnerable are protected today while also preventing crime and violence in the future. We are eager to work with the Attorney General to break the cycle of violence by helping traumatized children heal.”
Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund):
“Children are most important for the future ability of this state to thrive. The step being announced, ensuring that there is a bureau dedicated to focusing on children, is one that will yield tremendous benefits, not only for the children who are affected, not only for their parents, but for the entire state of California.”
Jennifer Perry, Executive Director of Children’s Action Network and board member of Children’s Law Center:
“When you ask a children in foster care ‘why are you here?’, not ‘what are you doing here?’, you can bring the resources to bear on changing the future for that child. Three percent of kids in foster care go on to complete a college or vocational education, 70% of them want to. We should be asking ‘why?’ Why aren’t we helping those kids achieve their aspirations? I commend the Attorney General for already knowing the ‘why’ and making a huge step forward and looking at the ‘how’—how are we going to work together to make sure that all of them have the future that they deserve.”
Alex Johnson, Executive Director of California Children’s Defense Fund:
“We have to ensure that children have a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start, and indeed, a moral start in life. That is the essence of this bureau, ensuring that children have those vital necessities that they need to succeed in the long-term. It offers a great opportunity to address the root causes of the cradle-to-prison pipeline. Let me thank the Attorney General and this office for its leadership in investing in children, recognizing that our moral authority as adults requires us to place children at the forefront.”
Ryan Smith, Executive Director of Education Trust- West:
“The Attorney General is building on her track record of helping students, supporting schools across the state, assuring that students have the right to an equal education. Going forward, it’s up to all of us to work with the Attorney General to make sure that every child has the right to succeed.”
The Bureau draws on Attorney General Harris’ expertise as a career prosecutor focusing on sexual and physical crimes against children and her commitment to defending every child in California. Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco, where she created a child sexual assault unit. She also led the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families and specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.