Home Local News St. Mary Parish Introduces Safe Space for Children and Families in Court

St. Mary Parish Introduces Safe Space for Children and Families in Court

by KQKInews
2 minutes read

FRANKLIN, La. – St. Mary Parish has recently introduced a safe space, located on the sixth floor of the courthouse, for children and families within the courthouse, providing a calming environment during court proceedings. The initiative was developed through a partnership between CASA and the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Amanda Landry from CASA, explained, “We took inspiration from Caddo Parish and wanted to create something for our kids in need. This room helps children feel more at ease, offering a calm down corner, activity center, and a color station.” The safe space also facilitates family visits for those in out-of-home placements.

Oscar West from the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office emphasized the importance of felt safety for children in court, stating that many negative behaviors stem from a lack of feeling safe. “Court can be scary even for adults, let alone children. This room is designed to create a sense of comfort for those attending court sessions.”

CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with vulnerable children who are often placed in foster care. Landry mentioned that their ultimate goal is to provide safe spaces in all three parishes they cover – Iberia, St. Martin, and St. Mary.

Speaking on the financial aspect of the project, Landry expressed gratitude for the funding provided by the Women’s Giving Circle grant from the Diocese of Houma. “We were awarded a $10,000 grant that allowed us to make this project a reality,” she said.

The safe space caters to individuals up to the age of 21 and provides resources such as reading materials and creative activities suitable for all ages. In addition, West highlighted that this initiative not only supports children but also aims to educate the court system on accommodating juvenile needs.

Furthermore, West clarified that the focus on trauma-informed approaches does not mean exempting individuals from being held responsible. Rather, it emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing underlying safety concerns to create a healthier environment.

Landry shared that while anyone is allowed in the room, there will be supervision from a safe person, like herself or an officer, to ensure it remains a secure space for those utilizing it. Both Landry and West hope that this innovative approach will be expanded to other parishes, prompting a structural change in courtrooms across Louisiana.

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