Conference Focuses On Cooperative Effort To Protect Children's Rights

June 22, 2004

The KIDS LAW Conference being held today at the Augusta Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. will stress cooperation between State officials, courts, schools, service providers, and advocates for children in protecting the legal rights of Maine children. The conference is being presented by KIDS Legal Aid of Maine in partnership with the Maine Judicial Branch, the Maine Office of the Attorney General, the Division of Ambulatory Pediatrics of the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center, the New England Juvenile Defender Center, the Preble Street Resource Center, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and Youth Alternatives. The Maine State Bar Association and the New England Juvenile Defender Center are also sponsoring the conference.

Conference organizers expect 275 legal, medical, and education professionals to attend. Following a kick-off by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley at 8:30 a.m., a group of teens including members of the Youth Leadership Advisory Team will describe to all attendees their experiences receiving medical, educational, family law and delinquency services. Attorney General Steven Rowe will then facilitate a discussion involving the teens that will interweave the four substantive areas. Breakout sessions covering health care, teen violence, family law, juvenile justice, and education.

The conference will provide training on how to identify unmet legal needs of children in areas of medical care, education, family law and the juvenile justice system. Breakout sessions will demonstrate how access to services in one of the four topic areas may improve outcomes for youth, how these topics intersect legally and how problems in one area may impact needs in another area. The conference will also offer opportunities for providers to build connections with others who provide resources in their geographic area and inspire continued dedication to improving the lives of kids in Maine. The conference will highlight best practices from collaborative projects around the state that work to reduce violence, and improve the health and safety of Maine youth.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said, "Children deserve every bit of energy and creativity that we as professionals in our disparate fields can bring to the task of solving problems for families. When children have skilled advocates who can help navigate the many systems that are in existence to help families, both the children and their families benefit. This conference represents the start of an extraordinary collaborative effort toward meaningful, real, and effective advocacy for Maine's children."

Governor John Baldacci said, "This conference is an outstanding example of successful collaboration at all levels to improve services for children in contact with the legal system. Increasing coordination of services and strengthening comprehensive prevention and early intervention programs will enable us to better assist these most vulnerable of our citizens."

Attorney General Steven Rowe said, "Although children make up less than one-third of our state's population, they represent 100% of our future. Protection of their legal rights deserves our best efforts."

Alison Beyea, Director of KIDS Legal Aid of Maine, said, "At Kids Legal we look to represent the child holistically. To do that, we work with professionals from all disciplines to improve outcomes for our kids. This conference is an extension of our legal practice." Additional information is available at The conference agenda follows: Kids Law: A Cooperative Approach to Protecting Children's Rights June 22, 2004Augusta Civic Center Agenda 8:00 – 8:30 Registration 8:30-9:00 Welcome and Introductory Remarks: Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, Supreme Judicial Court of Maine 9:00-10:00 Plenary: "Straight Talk From The Teens We Serve" Narratives delivered by members of the Youth Leadership Advocacy Team and other teens who Presentation will be followed by a facilitated discussion by Attorney General Steven Rowe which will interweave the four legal substantive topics. This introduction will allow attendees to access the written materials for break-out sessions they do not attend. It will also allow them to make connections between their subject area and issues in other areas. 10:00-10:15 Break 10:15 - 11:30 – Breakout Session A Understanding A Teen's Right to Health Care, Part IKeeping Confidences, Accessing Care: Lecture and Q & A covering who must consent and who can authorize care for teenagers; what information is confidential and who may have access to confidential records. Kenneth Lehman, Esq., Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson Teen Violence: "Working Through Teen Violence" Panelists will discuss teen violence, issues of domestic/dating violence, general violence and civil rights violations. Thomas Harnett, Assistant Attorney General; Nan Bell, School Based Abuse Prevention Educator, Family Violence Project; Nancy Schiff-Slater, Esq., Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Megan Walker, Assistant Principal, South Portland High School; Evert Fowle, District Attorney, Kennebec County. Educational Resources for Troubled Kids: "Keeping Kids in School" How to help kids who are struggling to stay in or already out of school. A panel will discuss how to break down barriers and get kids back in school. Issues of truancy, homelessness and alternative education will be addressed. Sara Anne Meerse, Esq., Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Shelley Reed, Department of Education. 11:30 - 12:30 Lunch - 12:30 - 1:45 -- Breakout Session B Understanding Teen's Right to Health Care, Part IIAccessing Health Care. Panel discussion on issues surrounding teens' access to mental health, substance abuse and family planning services. Kenneth Lehman, Esq., Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson; Larry Tyler, M.Ed., LADC, MAC, Maine Office of Substance Abuse; Patrick Ende, Esq. Maine Equal Justice Partners; John F. Goodrich, MD, Greater Portland Pediatrics; Andrew Cook, Medical Director, Children's Services, Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services. Family Law Primer- "Ten Things You Should Know About Family Law." A nutshell course on parental rights and responsibilities, visitation schedules, emancipation, guardianship and the role of the Guardian ad Litem. Terry Hayes, GAL, Ken Altshuler, Esq., Childs, Rundlett, Fifield, Shumway & Altshuler, Mary Kelly, Assistant Attorney General. Juvenile Justice Part I:Dealing With A Juvenile Summons. This session will provide an overview of delinquency process in state and federal court. Hon. Joseph Field, Maine Distiect Court; John Webb, Nichols & Webb; Darcie McElwee, Assistant United States Attorney, District of Maine; Chris Northrop, Esq., Moulton, Forte & Northrop, PA, Wells; Tanya L. Pierson-Sweeney, Assistant District Attorney. 1:45 -3:00 – Breakout Session C Interpreting Court Orders in Family Law Cases: What should providers do when they are handed court documents and parties allege they mean different thing? This session will discuss protection from abuse/harassment and parental rights orders and how to interpret them. Juliet Holmes-Smith, Esq., Pine Tree Legal Assistance. Juvenile Justice, Part IIDisposition Alternatives: What to do when the juvenile case is over? This panel will consider what services are available for kids in the juvenile system and how these services may prevent future delinquency. Hon. Joseph Field, Maine District Court; R. Matthew Brown, United States Probation Officer; John Webb, Nichols & Webb; Chris Northrop, Esq., Moulton, Forte & Northrop, PA, Wells; Tanya L. Pierson-Sweeney, Assistant District Attorney. Special Education: "Identifying and Supporting IDEA" What is IDEA? A panel will explore issues of identification of youth with disabilities, appropriate educational and supportive services and discipline under state and federal law. Panelists include: Richard O'Meara, Esq., Murray, Plumb & Murray; Sara Meerse, Esq., Pine Tree Legal Assistance; Sarah Forster, Assistant Attorney General. 3:00 - 3:15 Break 3:15- 4:00 We're all in this together: How collaboration between disciplines produces better outcomes for Maine's kidsHon. John Nivison, Maine District Court: The Family Treatment Drug CourtDavid Burns: Rapid Response Program 4:00 - 4:15 Closing Remarks by Associate Justice Jon Levy, Maine Supreme Judicial Court