Open juvenile courts' doors to public

Regarding Georgia Senate Bill 207, which would broaden public access to juvenile court hearings:


In my decade of experience helping families who have been falsely accused of child abuse, I have never seen a child benefit from juvenile court secrecy. The only beneficiaries of closed juvenile courts are the courts themselves and state agencies such as the state Department of Family and Children's Services.

I maintain that children who come under juvenile court jurisdiction would greatly benefit from the public's scrutiny. For example, any party to a juvenile court case has a right to be heard, but juvenile court judges routinely deny children this right.

Public scrutiny would ensure that the rights of these children are not ignored. This alone would help protect allegedly abused and neglected children.

I have long been a proponent of open juvenile courts, and I take issue with the concept of child protection being at odds with public interest. At best, this is a specious straw man argument, and at worst it is aimed at preserving a status quo that allows government agents to victimize those who are already vulnerable.

As a citizen of a supposedly free and open society, and as a family advocate who has long fought for vulnerable families -- and, most importantly, as a mother -- this status quo is simply unacceptable.

Dorothy Kernaghan-Baez


(The writer is founder of the advocacy group Georgia Family Rights Inc.)



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