March | April 2014

Message From the Administrator

Hello, I’m Bob Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Each April, our nation renews its commitment to preventing the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children—by observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Tragically, too many children in our nation are mistreated and abused.

According to the OJJDP-funded National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 1 in 10 American children suffered from child maltreatment, and 1 in 16 were victimized sexually in the year of the survey.

The science is telling us that the consequences of trauma—whether it’s physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or violence on the streets—are significant—and can actually change the brain’s physiology and functioning.

Research shows that exposure to trauma over time can interfere with a young person’s ability to successfully navigate the route to productive adulthood.

It often causes a host of emotional and behavioral problems and can put these children at significantly higher risk of entering our juvenile justice system.

While we are working on all possible fronts to address children’s exposure to violence, crime, and abuse, we know that this problem is particularly severe in Indian country. Native youth have a 2.5 times greater risk for experiencing trauma when compared with their non-Native peers.

That is why, as part of the Defending Childhood Initiative, which our Office manages, the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Interior appointed a special Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.

In April, the task force held the third of four public hearings with tribal leaders, community advocates, and survivors. I’ve attended all the hearings, and I was moved—and inspired—by the testimony I heard. By the end of 2014, the task force is scheduled to issue recommendations that will serve as a blueprint for addressing children’s exposure to violence in tribal communities across our nation.

Over the past two decades, advances in research have provided us with a comprehensive toolkit of evidence-based programs and practices for responding when children are exposed to trauma, and helping young people to develop resiliency, to heal, and to thrive.

Now we must work together energetically to disseminate this critical information nationwide and support the implementation of these solutions wherever they are needed.

At the national level, our Office is getting the word out about evidence-based practices through our online Model Programs Guide, research publications, training and technical assistance—and through dialog with youth, advocates, and juvenile justice and child welfare professionals at national conferences and other events.

Recently, I led a plenary session at the annual meeting of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and participated in the National Governors Association Experts Roundtable on Improving Outcomes for Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth. I also spoke on evidence-based practices at the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development Conference.

At these and other events during March and April 2014, I had the privilege of engaging with you—the people on the front lines of our national efforts to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of our nation's youth.

I look forward to working closely with you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for listening.