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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Defending Childhood Grantee Meeting

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Washington, DC

     Good morning. Welcome to the first Defending Childhood grantee meeting. It's really great to see all of you gathered in one place - to see so much knowledge and commitment under one roof. I know you'll hear this again from Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and the Attorney General himself, but I'd like to be the first to say that we're so grateful for your ongoing work to move Defending Childhood from idea to action. Your efforts will be part of an enduring legacy.

     Speaking of legacy, I have to tell you how proud I am that my agency - the Office of Justice Programs - has been able to play such an important role in the genesis of Defending Childhood. When I was OJP's Assistant Attorney General during the Clinton years, I had the pleasure of working with then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder on the formation of the Safe Start Initiative.

     We launched Safe Start in 1999 to reduce the impact of children's exposure to violence. That program has taught us so much about working in communities - about translating what we know from research into what children and families need. In many ways, Safe Start helped to make Defending Childhood possible.

     But there were other efforts during the last 15 years, too. The Greenbook Initiative and the Child Development and Community Policing Program, for instance, contributed the underpinnings for our current work. All of these efforts are consistent with the broader movement toward evidence-based programs.

     We recently published a study funded by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and CDC called the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence. The findings demonstrate that this problem is epidemic.

     When faced with an epidemic, the public health response is to identify and protect those who are most vulnerable, and to control the transmission of the disease. Integrating research into practice is, I think, one of the best ways to inoculate communities against children's exposure to violence. That's why the effort to develop knowledge and spread awareness is one of Defending Childhood's key goals.

     Of course, it isn't quite as easy as getting a flu shot! So how do we bridge the research-to-practice gap?

     At OJP, we've launched what we call the Evidence Integration Initiative, or E2I, to help us do that. The primary purpose of E2I is to give practitioners and policymakers better tools to understand, access, and integrate evidence into programs and policy. Therefore, we've established Evidence Integration Teams to synthesize evidence on specific justice topics and develop principles for practice that we can share with the field.

     One of the inaugural teams is addressing children's exposure to violence, and I'd like to share a little preview of their hard work:

     First, their findings reiterate the importance of engaging both parents and children in prevention and intervention programs. This issue doesn't just impact young victims; it destroys families - and in turn, communities.

     Second, the research also shows the need to address poly-victimization - children who are exposed to different types of violence in multiple places - at home, at school, and in the community. These children literally have no safe place. We need to pay special attention to these victims when assessing risk and distributing resources. Here's a clear, concrete opportunity to apply evidence.

     Finally, the team's review found that the use of evidence-based practices remains limited, and that providers in the field - people like you - are essential to the comprehensive implementation of these practices. In short, this effort really can't work without you.

     Given this knowledge, our responsibility at the federal level, I think, is to continue to generate quality research and then to translate it into material that has practical applications to what you do every day. We can't be in the business of issuing mandates from Washington to the field. Instead of that, it's really about partnerships that can benefit kids and families.

     Let me end by emphasizing that we're committed to this work. As you'll see and hear in the next couple days, Defending Childhood is a personal - and decades long - commitment of Eric Holder and a top priority for this Department of Justice.

     So we look forward to continuing this partnership, and to working together to develop smart approaches to combating children's exposure to violence.

     Thank you.


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