Latest News from Hamilton County Juvenile Court

Review Process Underway for "Hillcrest Reimagined" Proposals

February 2024

Hillcrest Reimagined Proposals

The Request for Proposals (RFP) deadline to identify a new provider or providers for Hillcrest Academy has passed. Five applications were submitted to assist Hamilton County Juvenile Court with the re-opening and operation of Hillcrest, a residential treatment and educational program for Court-involved kids.

The Court is creating a new model for Hillcrest that will bring together the highest quality provider or providers to coordinate daily supervision and provide services for children in five areas:

  • Residential
  • Programmatic & Behavioral Health
  • Education
  • Food Service
  • Medical/Dental Health

The proposals are now being reviewed, starting with an internal assessment that will run at least through March. The bids will also be shared with Hamilton County leaders for their feedback.

All children placed at Hillcrest will be referred by HCJC. Hillcrest is located in Springfield Township at 246 Bonham Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45215. There are 22 buildings on the site including 12 unattached housing units, gymnasium, recreation hall, chapel, 13-classroom school building, indoor swimming pool, dining hall, and administrative offices. The Hillcrest site has been in constant use as a school and residential facility for delinquent and dependent children since 1914.

Hillcrest Reimagined Proposals

The goal is to re-open Hillcrest Academy by late fall 2024 or early 2025, depending on renovation of the site, which is currently underway. The RFP calls for a 144-bed facility to house and provide services to three populations of Court-involved children in Hamilton County:

  • Up to 36 males requiring a staff-secure facility, who have been adjudicated delinquent for a serious offense and require a staff secure out of home placement.
  • Up to 48 children, male and female, requiring a staff-secure facility, with significant mental/behavioral health concerns.
  • Up to 60 children, male and female, who require respite. These are youth experiencing difficulties in the community who do not rise to the level of correctional confinement but may not be safe at home.

Court Administrator Liz Igoe, Chief of Security Chris Hohmeister, and Community Engagement Director LaDonna Wallace Smith will meet with members of the Springfield Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday March 12 at 5:30pm, and members of Wyoming City Council on Monday March 18 at 7pm.

Youth Center Graduates First Cohort of Aramark IN2WORK Students

February 2024

Youth Center Graduates First Cohort of Aramark IN2WORK Students

Four young people currently being held at the Youth Detention Center are the first juvenile graduates in Hamilton County of an innovative program sponsored by Aramark, the Center’s food service provider.

The IN2WORK program teaches incarcerated men and women the fundamentals of working in a food service or retail warehouse environment. Combined with practical work experience and a nationally recognized certificate these skills will give the graduates a better opportunity to enter the workforce when they are released.

Youth Center Graduates First Cohort of Aramark IN2WORK Students

Pictured: Destiny Meatchem, Aramark instructor, Anup Das, Aramark district manager, Andrae Jones, Youth Center operations deputy director

“When you think about what you’ll do when you get out, whether you go home in two weeks, or a year, or whether you go to an adult facility, Aramark will stand behind you,” said Belinda Peterson, Aramark’s IN2WORK manager. “When you walk out those doors you are supported. Wherever you go, whatever you do, please know we are here to help you.”

Peterson, along with Anup Das, district manager for Aramark Correctional Services, and Destiny Meatchem, Aramark’s on-site instructor at the Youth Center, all attended the IN2WORK graduation ceremony for the four youth.

“I like being able to show people that you can make the best of every situation,” one of the graduates told those attending the ceremony. “Our situations may not be pretty but we can move forward.” Another said this experience will bring encouragement to other youth being held at the Youth Center.

In addition to training and certification, IN2WORK offers incarcerated program graduates:

  • Internships to work alongside Aramark managers in prisons and detention facilities;
  • Up to $2,500 in scholarships funding for program graduates and their family members to continue their education in whatever field they choose;
  • Job opportunities with Aramark and/or technology access to support their job search in another field.

To date, the IN2WORK program has about 9,000 graduates nationwide. The goal is to make a meaningful difference by breaking the cycle of incarceration through education.

“We are extremely grateful for this program,” said Brian Bell, director of the HCJC Youth Center. “Our goal for the kids we house is rehabilitation. This program gives them an opportunity to use their time here productively so that when they return to our community, they are prepared to get a job and lead successful lives.”

A new cohort of youth has been selected and is now beginning the next round IN2WORK training.

Applications Now Being Accepted for Summer Law School Interns

January 2024

Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC) is looking for dynamic, public-minded, law school students for its 2024 Summer program.

Selected interns will work with various Court personnel for eight weeks, including working directly with Administrative Judge Kari Bloom and Judge Stacey DeGraffenreid. Interns also work with magistrates in the four Juvenile Court divisions, delinquency, dependency, private custody, and child support, as well as with our teams at the Youth Detention Center and the HCJC Youth Assessment Center.

2023 interns

Sarah Keffer, pictured left, with the 2023 Juvenile Court summer interns

Participants have the opportunity to contribute to the Court through participation in one of our 16 policy change working group, running Juvenile Justice Jeopardy sessions for detained youth, and contributing to a variety of research projects.

“The Hamilton County Juvenile Court Summer Law Clerk Program was a wonderful educational experience,” said Sarah Keffer, a 2023 intern and second-year law student at Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law. “The program encompassed hands-on work with juveniles, observation hours in multiple court rooms, networking opportunities with numerous rehabilitative programs and legal professionals, and the unique experience of drafting judicial decisions for both delinquency and dependency matters. It is rare to find such a well-rounded and interactive experience in the legal field. The clerkship provided me with a deep understanding of the judicial system that I remain grateful for, and that I will apply in my future legal career.”

Law students of all years are invited to apply. These are full-time unpaid positions, but the Court will work with students to secure funding opportunities through students’ law school or other sources.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Administrative Magistrate Sarah Henry at by Feb. 16, 2024.

Safe Surrender Day coming January 9, 2024

December 2023

If you have an outstanding warrant in Hamilton County Juvenile Court you can address the charge and start fresh in 2024!

The Court is sponsoring a Safe Surrender Day on Tuesday Jan. 9 from 8:30am to 3pm at 800 Broadway. Anyone with an outstanding warrant in Juvenile Court is strongly encouraged to participate.

As one current youth currently being held at the Youth Detention Center puts it, “I don’t believe I would still be in here if I had done the right thing and not continued to run.”

Your options to do things like get a job, go to school, or rent an apartment are severely limited if you avoid resolving an outstanding warrant. Eliminate the stress this puts on you, your family, and your friends by facing your charges.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Come to the first floor of Hamilton County Juvenile Court, 800 Broadway, on Tuesday Jan. 9 between 8:30am and 3pm.
  • Additional Court staff will be on site to assist you, including a Spanish interpreter beginning at 1:30pm.
  • If you believe you are innocent this is your chance to work with a public defender and make your case. Not addressing the charge will not make it go away.
  • Reach out to the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office at 513-946-3700 anytime if you have questions about your case.
  • If you don’t want to wait until Jan. 9, come to 800 Broadway, 2020 Auburn, or any police station any day or time, to address your situation. We are here to help you.

Please know that while turning yourself in does not guarantee immediate release, you will be positioning yourself to proactively and positively resolve your case and move forward, free of the limitations that come with an outstanding warrant.

“Don’t let your past dictate your future,” said Hamilton County Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Kari Bloom. “If you made a mistake as a juvenile let the Court help you resolve the issue. Do the right thing for yourself, your family and your future.”

To contact Juvenile Court with questions, call 513-946-9417 or 513-946-9461.


Request for Proposal (RFP) Issued for Hillcrest Academy

December 2023

Hillcrest Academy entrance signHamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC) has issued its Request for Proposal (RFP) to identify a new provider or providers to re-open and operate Hillcrest Academy. A read-only copy of the RFP may be accessed here.

The Court is creating a new model for Hillcrest that will bring together the highest quality provider or providers to coordinate daily supervision and provide services for children in five areas:

  • Residential Service Area
  • Programmatic & Behavioral Health Service Area
  • Educational Service Area
  • Food Service Operations Area
  • Medical/Dental Health Service Area

Program offerors may propose to operate all five Service Areas, work in conjunction with other Offerors to operate specific Service Areas, or submit individual proposals to operate one or more Service Areas.

The Court will be responsible for security and the County will be responsible for maintenance and operation of the facility. An administrative team, made up of members of the Court, will provide daily oversight and coordination.

The goal of the RFP is to identify interested and qualified Offerors to provide services 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year for an initial term of five years.

The RFP calls for a 144-bed facility to house and provide services to the following populations of Court-involved children in Hamilton County:

  • Up to 36 males requiring a staff-secure facility, who have been adjudicated delinquent for a serious offense and require a staff secure out of home placement.
  • Up to 48 children, male and female, requiring a staff-secure facility, with significant mental/behavioral health concerns.
  • Up to 60 children, male and female, who require respite. These are youth experiencing difficulties in the community who do not rise to the level of correctional confinement but may not be safe at home.

Hillcrest Academy aerial view

“To successfully rehabilitate, children who are placed at Hillcrest need a safe place to live, daily access to mental and behavioral services, an accredited school with engaged staff and teachers, healthy, nutritious food, and access to physical health services,” said HCJC Administrative Judge Kari Bloom. “The data is clear. Court-involved kids increase their ability to succeed if they stay out of detention and get the services they need close to home. We have been under-utilizing this tremendous community asset. By extending services at Hillcrest to a variety of Court-involved kids, we can assist Jobs & Family Services, local mental health providers, and other agencies that support kids and families.”

Service providers interested in participating in the bid process for Hillcrest should click on the County Bid opportunities page. A link to the Hillcrest RFP is on page two. Click on the link and follow directions for the bidding process.

The RFP process calendar is as follows:

  • Dec. 15, 2023: 11am-3pm, Pre-bid conference and walk-through of the property
  • Jan. 3-Jan. 10, 2024: Written Q&A period
  • Feb. 14, 2024: Submission acceptance period ends
  • The expectation is that Hillcrest will reopen by Fall 2024

The contact and mailing address to send a proposal, ask questions regarding the proposal process, technical issues, or the requirements and specifications is:

Gina Richmond- Purchasing Agent
Hamilton County Purchasing Department
138 East Court Street, Room 507
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

All questions regarding this RFP must be presented in writing and emailed to: with the RFP number entered in the subject line of any communication.

All children placed at Hillcrest are referred by HCJC. Hillcrest is located in Springfield Township at 246 Bonham Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45215. There are 22 buildings on the site including 12 unattached housing units, gymnasium, recreation hall, chapel, 13-classroom school building, indoor swimming pool, dining hall, and administrative offices. The Hillcrest site has been in constant use as a school and residential facility for delinquent and dependent children since 1914.

Take Our Public Survey to Improve Juvenile Court

November 2023

Under the leadership of Judge Kari Bloom, Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC) is changing the way Juvenile Court operates to better serve our community.

To that end, we are reaching out to families that have interacted with our juvenile court system with a 10-question survey. By sharing your experiences, good and bad, you will help guide us as we improve our system.

Public SurveyThe survey is open to any person or family who has had contact with our Court and may be willing to provide feedback. We will accept responses through December 22, 2023. Responses are anonymous, and sharing your name and contact information is optional.

Scan the QR Code in the PDF or click this link to access the survey.

At HCJC, we strive daily to foster an environment that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We acknowledge and value each person for who they are and for their unique place in the juvenile justice system, from staff, to attorneys, to children and families, to the general public.

Rest assured, your input is valuable to us and will be considered as we make changes that will lead to the highest quality service and the best possible outcome for children and families.

Thank you for taking the time to help us do better.

Teen Wellness Day Saturday Oct. 28 at Hamilton County Youth Center

October 2023

Teen Wellness Day Saturday Oct. 28 at Hamilton County Youth Center

Hamilton County Juvenile Court, in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s division of adolescent medicine, will sponsor a Teen Wellness Day on Saturday Oct. 28. Children’s mobile van will be on site at the Youth Center, 2020 Auburn Ave., from 10am until 2pm.

The public is welcome and encouraged to register and attend this free event specifically for young people ages 12 to 21.

Cincinnati Children’s team members, specially trained in adolescent health, will be on site to address medical, social, emotional, sexual, educational and nutritional concerns.

“This is a great opportunity for young people to get a wellness check-up, sports or work permit physical, or just talk to a health professional about whatever is on their mind,” said LaDonna Wallace Smith, director of community engagement for the Court. “We’re grateful to Cincinnati Children’s for making their services accessible to children and families in Hamilton County.”

To pre-register, scan the QR code in this flyer or call the Teen Health Center at 513-636-4681.

Teen Wellness Day Saturday Oct. 28 at Hamilton County Youth Center

Court Forms Updated for Easier Filing Thanks to HCJC Employee

September 2023

Court Forms Updated for Easier Filing

Thanks to one of our own, the Court has updated all of the forms on our website to make the filing process easier.

Dee Dee Miller HCJCDorothea Miller is the Court’s Deputy Clerk Trainer. Every day, she is on the frontline with our clients. Over her 21 years with the Court, she has watched families struggle with complicated forms. So, she revised them!

Dee Dee put together a thick binder of proposed form changes that have now been approved by the Court and posted on our website. The forms are for everything from custody and support issues to juvenile protection orders and paternity. You’ll find the forms here.

Dee Dee’s persistence is legendary. She will do anything possible to make navigating our system easier for children and families.

According to Dee Dee, “Working in the Court inspires my desire to serve people, both internally among my colleagues and externally, on behalf of families who are struggling and need a listening ear and a kind word.”

Thank you, Dee Dee, and all of your colleagues in the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office, for all that you do to support your colleagues as well as the children and families we serve.

Hamilton County Help Center Expanding Services to Include Juvenile Court Custody Cases

September 2023

Many people lack the means to afford legal representation in Court. Advice and guidance from an attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome of a case, especially for children whose parents are involved in a custody situation.

Of the nearly 20,000 cases filed in Juvenile Court in 2022, more than two-thirds involved a child support or custody issue.

A collaboration between the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and UC Law School is expanding to include local parties involved in custody and support cases, such as shared parenting, shared custody and changes in sole custody, in Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC).

The collaborative resource, The Hamilton County Help Center, is located in the Hamilton County Courthouse. Two attorneys, employed by UC Law, two paralegals employed by the Clerk of Courts, and UC Law student interns, currently provide low-income residents with free education, information, and limited advice pertinent to legal issues in Municipal Court involving housing, debt collection, small claims, and judgment collection.

Hope Finney Hamilton County Juvenile Court Help CenterAn additional attorney, also employed by UC Law, is now located on the first floor of HCJC. Hope Finney joined the Help Center in late August as a full-time attorney to assist parents with child custody cases.

“I am honored and proud to take on this new role, assisting children and families in the community where I grew up,” said Finney. “What could be more important than working to ensure that children are well cared for, happy and safe?”

Finney earned her law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School in 2020. Her professional experience includes working for the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission, Ohio Justice & Policy Center, and Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center.

“Unlike the other cases we hear in Juvenile Court, parties to private custody cases do not have a Constitutional right to an attorney,” said Administrative Judge Kari Bloom. “People are allowed to hire an attorney, but there are lots of reasons that they don’t. The lack of legal assistance can hurt children because the cases often become complicated, take longer to resolve, and give an unfair advantage to one party over another. Hope’s job is to work with the parties to make sure the child or children come first.”

“The University of Cincinnati College of Law is excited to be part of the expansion of the Clerk of Courts Help Center to the Juvenile Court,” said Haider Ala Hamoudi, Dean and Nippert Professor of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law. “From its inception, the Help Center has been a wonderful collaboration between UC Law and the Clerk’s Office. In giving our students the opportunity to assist families who appear before the court, the Help Center allows UC Law to advance our mission of educating and inspiring lawyers who pursue justice and advance the role of law in society.”

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Help CenterClerk of Courts Pavan Parikh said, “The Help Center has provided an invaluable service to the community over its first six years of existence, and we are pleased to be able to expand these services to Juvenile Court, which will enable us to assist even more people in Hamilton County. The legal system can be intimidating, and Hope will provide families with education, information and limited legal advice to empower families navigating the complicated custody court processes.”

The Help Center is located at the Hamilton County Courthouse, 1000 Main St. Room 113, 513-946-5650. The satellite office for custody issues is located inside Hamilton County Juvenile Court, 800 Broadway, first floor, 513-946-9442.

Youth Center High School Graduation

September 2023

Youth Center High School Graduation

When circumstances lead a child to our Youth Detention Center, it’s a near certainty that they’ve already faced a multitude of challenges in their short lives. While detained, they have the opportunity to overcome at least one of those challenges; full participation in their education.

On Aug. 29, for the first time since COVID, the Youth Center celebrated an in-person high school graduation for one of our young men. Surrounded by his teachers, staff, family, and friends, he received his diploma from Cincinnati Public Schools. His teachers lauded his hard work, positive attitude, and leadership in the classroom.

His English teacher described him as “emotionally resilient and a life-long learner.” Several teachers talked about his leadership in the classroom, helping new students and acting as an aide in the classroom to support his teachers and fellow students.

The young man expressed thanks to all who supported him. “At the rate I was going, I didn’t think I was going to make it to 18. I’m so happy to make it to 18, I’m so happy to graduate from high school, even though I am in this situation.” He also shared the mantra of his Youth Center pod: “When you change your mind, you change your life.”

Despite personal hurdles and life-changing choices that often lead to incarceration, the youth at the detention center are children, hungry for knowledge. They’re a captive audience of students who attend classes every day during their placement at the Youth Center. The result for many of them often leads to graduation, with new skills and confidence to carry them forward.

Thank you to all Youth Center teachers and staff who made this life-changing moment happen for this young man and his family. We look forward to celebrating more graduation ceremonies in the future.

A Thank You for Serving Immigrant Children

August 2023

Hamilton County Juvenile Court and SIJS

Hamilton County Juvenile Court works with immigration attorneys to ensure that court hearings for children petitioning for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) are completed in a timely and professional manner.

SIJS is an immigration classification available to certain undocumented immigrants under the age of 21 who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents. The classification allows them to apply for and obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.

Since tracking began in May 2022, HCJC has had 383 SIJS filings, some for more than one child.

In August, members of our Court who support this effort, were invited to attend an SIJS Appreciation Art Show, presented by McKinney & Namei Co, LPA and Marks Verde Law LLC.

The children presented beautiful arts and crafts as a thank you for the attorneys and Court staff that assisted them with the process of filing and acquiring their SIJS status.

Power & Pride of Philanthropy for Kids in the HCJC Youth Center

August 2023

Magnified Giving Cincinnati

Pictured: Kelly Collison, Alison Kaufman, (Magnified Giving), Penny Harris, Gregg Pickett, LaDonna Wallace Smith, Sarah Henry (Juvenile Court)

Imagine never being asked your opinion, or what you care about, or feeling trusted. That’s often the situation children find themselves in, especially children who, for a variety of reasons, end up in the juvenile justice system.

Magnified Giving is a Cincinnati non-profit dedicated to creating opportunities for all children to be heard, empowered, and trusted to act, including children currently housed in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Detention Center.

“We are a small non-profit with a very understanding and creative Board,” says Kelly Collison, CEO of Magnified Giving. “They want more youth to use their gifts and talents to become engaged in the joy of giving, no matter where they’re coming from.”

Magnified Giving has a strong and unique partnership with Youth Center art teacher Penny Harris and her students, all of whom are facing delinquency charges. With support from Magnified Giving, Ms. Harris’s art students create art and donate grant funding to local non-profits.

“I have our kids pick causes they are interested in like poverty, women, children,” says Harris. “I gather up information on non-profits that focus on their interests and we start dissecting them. Once an organization is selected by the kids, we go to work creating art for them.”

Just like most high school kids, the children at the Youth Center are required to do community service in order to graduate from high school, 120 hours for Cincinnati Public School graduates. When students are limited by their circumstances, it’s tough to find service opportunities.

Youth Center students cannot go to the non-profit to serve, so with the help of Magnified Giving, the opportunity to serve comes to them.

“Penny is fabulous when it comes to the creativity she uses to overcome restrictions,” says Collison. “We never tell her, we can’t do this. We consider the barriers, focus on the end goal and identify the small hurdles we need to jump over to make our program work for her kids.”

Free Little Libraries for Queen City Book BankYouth Center students are currently making centerpieces out of old books for a fundraising gala and painting Free Little Libraries for Queen City Book Bank. They’re also working with HER Cincinnati to create large female empowerment paintings for the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to women experiencing chronic homelessness.

Along with the hands on work the kids do, the partnership with Magnified Giving also gives our students the responsibility to award non-profits $1,000 grants.

“We want the kids to know you don’t have to be old and rich to be a philanthropist,” said Collison. “Allowing kids to explore organizations and trusting them to decide how to allocate funds builds confidence and leadership skills, along with the satisfaction and positive feelings that come with doing good for and with others. These are life lessons and experiences that kids carry into their future lives.”

“By participating in the Magnified Giving program, the youth are being given a chance to explore their communities, the challenges being faced, and the resources available to provide direct support when they are in need,” says Alison Kaufman, director of programs for Magnified Giving. “It is important to give them this opportunity because when they rejoin the community they are now armed with the knowledge that they have time, talent, and treasure to be a positive contributing member.”

To date, Youth Center students have made $9,000 in Magnified Giving grants. In addition to Queen City Book Bank and HER Cincinnati, recipients include the Children’s Law Center, Ohio Innocence Project, Girls on the Run, and Pets in Need of Greater Cincinnati.

Ms. Harris says her students create projects for every organization that they consider for funding. They’ve made items such as placemats, bookmarks, and pet toys, for groups. Magnified Giving also helps fundraise for supplies needed to create these projects inside Ms. Harris’s art room.

Research shows that participating in service programs has a positive impact on teen’s mental health, makes them more responsible and boosts their self-esteem. The Court is grateful for the tremendous opportunity Magnified Giving provides our kids and looks forward to exploring expanding our partnership to include young people who are part of our probation and diversion programs.


Hillcrest Listening Session Feedback

August 2023

UPDATE: As of September, 2023, the Court is finalizing the RFP to submit to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, The Court will publicly share the RFP when it is approved and issued. Thanks to the community for your continued support for this important project.

Hillcrest Listening Session

More than 60 community members, in person and on Zoom, joined Hamilton County Juvenile Court judges and staff for the Court’s first ever public listening session. The purpose was to get community feedback as the Court prepares to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) on the Hillcrest Academy site. Since 1976, the county-owned site has been operated as an educational and residential treatment facility for Court-involved youth.

The property sits on just over 88 acres on Bonham Road, which runs off Galbraith Road in Wyoming. It includes 12 residential cottages, dining hall, school, gymnasium and pool, chapel as well as an administration and mechanical & maintenance buildings. The Hillcrest site has been in constant use as a school and residential facility for delinquent and dependent children since 1914.

Request for Proposal (RFP) on the Hillcrest AcademyHamilton County Juvenile Court Administrator Liz Igoe opened the session with an overview of the current status of the property and shared the Court’s three top priorities for the next provider: continuing to provide education through the on-site school, providing children with trauma-informed therapy, and offering a transition plan for children upon release.

The Court’s plan is to submit the draft RFP to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office for review in fall 2023, and issue the RFP shortly thereafter. The goal is to identify the next provider by early 2024. All providers, either as sole entities or in partnership with other organizations that can run different parts of the program, are encouraged to submit a proposal. The Court’s goal is to create the best possible education and residential treatment program in the country.

To read a recap of the broad themes and find answers to questions posed at the listening session, click here. If you have additional questions please email us at

Youth Center Spoken Word Poetry Jam

July 2023

“Right now, I been makin plans to keep you proud
My future gon be better, I can see it in me now.”

Youth Center Spoken Word Poetry Jam

Words of hope from a young poet, currently being held at the Hamilton County Youth Detention Center.

She is one of 15 Youth Center residents to read their original work at the first Youth Center “Spoken Word Poetry Jam” on July 19. In addition to the youth poets, six staff members shared their poetry. Pearl Anderson, who oversees administrative operations and volunteer programs at the Youth Center organized the event with support from Youth Center staff.

Also presenting was guest speaker, poet and author, Edwin “Orlando” Swan, who shared passages from his book, “Introduction to Orlando 101 Soul Edition.”

Youth Center Spoken Word Poetry JamThe heartfelt, original works performed by the children and staff, moved the audience, which included parents, HCJC staff and friends of the Court, to tears. Members of the Youth Center’s Youth Council scored the participants work and awarded E.W. first place for her poem, “Dear Ma.” We are proud and to share, with permission, the full poem below.

Dear Ma
by E.W.

I’m walkin on my own now
I know it took me a minute
But it’s fasho u raised a strong child
You told me ima end up dead if I keep hangin with the wrong crowd
It’s crazy iant dead but iah be gone for a long while
You said it hurt you deeply when u got that call
Answer the phone, I’m sorry momma but I can’t come home
My uncle gone
And things won’t get no better
Even through weakest moments
My love for you will last forever
See I was broke down wit trauma
But I’m doin better now
You always showed us you was strong
When daddy tried to beat you down
You always told us when u leave
We gotta learn to take control
You always said that we yo better half
Without us, you ain’t whole
So now I know all the pain and suffer u went through
All the women in the world, it ain’t another one like you
You our hero
Our warrior
A heck of a woman
And I just wanna say I’m sorry that I said you was nothin
And I just wanna say I’m sorry that I ever said I hate you
You the only mother that I have, I can’t replace u
Right now, I been makin plans to keep you proud
My future gon be better, I can see it in me now
Thanks to you, I’m finished wit my baby steps
I’m walking on my own
When I was lost, u helped me make it back
And I have pride that you’re my mom
Ima do what I’m supposed to do
And here’s my strongest words, Dear momma, I love you


HCJC to Host Public Input Session on the Future of Hillcrest Academy

July 2023

Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC) will host a public meeting on Tuesday July 25 from 6pm to 8pm regarding the future of Hillcrest Academy. If you can’t attend in person, please joins us via Zoom. Just click this Zoom link and enter 087651 for the password.

Heath United Building

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this public input session at the Health United Building (HUB), located on the Xavier University campus, 1723 Cleneay Ave Norwood, OH 45212. The HUB is handicap accessible with elevators to the fourth floor. It is across the street from the Cintas Center, where guests may park for free. Please do not park at University Station at the corner of Montgomery Road and Cleneay Avenue.

HCJC is preparing to issue Requests for Proposals (RFP) to identify a new provider for Hillcrest, a residential treatment program licensed by the Ohio Department of Family Services and owned by Hamilton County. Since 2012, Hillcrest has been run by a private operator, Rite of Passage (ROP).

“For decades, Hillcrest has played a critical role supporting and rehabilitating youth who have been found delinquent by our Court,” said Liz Igoe, HCJC Administrator. “As we draft our RFP to identify potential operators to partner with us, we want to share our goals with the community and get their feedback on how we can better serve children and families.”

Hillcrest, located at 246 Bonham Road, has been a county entity since the 1930s and HCJC assumed authority of Hillcrest in the late 1970s. Prior to ROP, it was operated by the Court.

Youth Court Keeps Kids Out of the System

July 2023

A young respondent wipes away tears as her law student advocate recounted an incident in school that resulted in a fight. The advocate was speaking to a jury of the respondent’s peers, other Hamilton County high school students.

Youth Courts Keeps Kids Out of the SystemPictured: Zainab Raza, law student & Youth Court intern, Danielle Johnson, law student, Caitlin Burgess, Youth Court Co-Coordinator, Karinne Hill, attorney judge, Lydia Ansermet, Youth Court Co-Coordinator, Jenna Heaphy, attorney judge, Kristen Pierce, law student

Welcome to Youth Court, a project started by the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers in coordination with Hamilton County Juvenile Court. Youth Court is now supported and funded by the Cincinnati Bar Foundation’s Judge Julia A. Stautberg Justice Fund. The program is for first-time, low-level offenders and grounded in the premise that positive peer interaction is much more effective than a lecture from a parent or judge.

“The general criteria for referring cases to Youth Court is first offense misdemeanors that are non-violent,” said Youth Court Co-Coordinator Caitlin Burgess. “The respondents are at least 14 years old, since it is a peer-to-peer model, and all of our jurors are high school students. Juvenile Court staff look through the unofficial cases and flags appropriate ones our way for consideration.”

Local lawyers serve as judge; law students as prosecutors, defense counsel and bailiffs; and high school students are jurors. With the exception of an intern paid for by the University of Cincinnati, all volunteer their time. Before proceedings begin, everyone is sworn in and promises to keep the proceedings confidential.

In Court, the prosecutor presents the facts of the case and recommends a sanction. The respondent’s defense counsel responds and offers his or her client and family the opportunity to speak to the Court. After that, jurors may ask questions. When statements and questions are complete, everyone but the Judge and jurors are escorted out of the courtroom so the jury may deliberate.

“It seems like she generally regrets her actions,” says one of the jurors during deliberations. All jurors agree that a written reflection, as recommended by the prosecutor, is an appropriate sanction. Sanctions are decided from a variety of options including a reflection paper, community service, chores, and a finding of admonished, which means the jurors feel that the youth has been appropriately dealt with by his or her parents or guardians.

Respondent, attorneys and family re-enter the courtroom. The jury’s foreperson speaks, “We the jury sanction you to a written reflection on the topic of alternative methods to deal with this situation, a page in length. And we also want to say we understand that you may have felt like you had to do that but in the future it’s important to think about ways to de-escalate the situation before it gets there.”

The judge proclaims, “the jury has spoken and the sanctions are final.” The young respondent confers with her attorney on next steps and leaves Court with a sanction, but no official record. But there’s a chance that respondents may be back to Youth Court, next time as a juror, helping other kids stay out of the system.

Celebrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

June 2023

June is Pride month nationally and here in Cincinnati on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Pride celebrates and supports LGBTQIA+ people and their historic struggle for acceptance and freedom to be themselves. Pride celebrations also recognize the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.

As a Court, justice and equality are the foundation of everything we do. Several Juvenile Court representatives were on hand for a flag raising on June 1 outside the Hamilton County Courthouse. Judge Kari Bloom joined Hamilton County Commissioners Alicia Reece, Denise Driehaus, and Stephanie Summerow Dumas, along with Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey, and several others for the event.

Judge Bloom also sent this message to members of the Juvenile Court staff: “Together, it is our job to create an environment where all feel welcome and heard. We must represent all the people we serve, including diversity of gender, race, sexuality, creed, nationality, experiences, and thought. Each of you belong here. It is important to me and to Judge DeGraffenreid that you feel safe, respected and valued for who you are and what you do.”

Hamilton County Juvenile Court supports all children. Here are some local resources for LGBTQ children and their families in our area.

Celebrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Celebrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Judge Bloom Honors High School Heroes

April 2023

On April 20, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Kari Bloom was the keynote speaker at the Woodward Career Technical High School Career Tech Graduation. She also had the honor of presenting two members of the class a special award for their bravery.

Jaileyana Fraley and Lagena Johnson completed their certification in Woodward’s health tech program. Two months before graduation, they voluntarily put their skills to the test and saved a life.

One of their fellow students was shot at an apartment complex near the school’s campus in February. He was able to get to the school to seek help. Fortunately, Jaileyana and Lagena were on site, taking part in “Sticks 4 Kicks,” a part of their program that allows for real-life experience in a simulated clinical setting.

The girls tended to the wound of their fellow student until assistance arrived.

“Jaileyana and Lagena sprang into action, without hesitation, without a second thought and administered lifesaving efforts for a friend,” said Judge Bloom “They were calm, they were caring, they were ready. They made a difference.”

In addition to presenting the students with an award for bravery, Judge Bloom also gave them a financial award for books as both move on to continue their education.

Address Child Abuse Before Victims End Up in Court

April 2023

April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness MonthIt’s a heartbreaking and consistent reality. Many abused and neglected children go unnoticed until they themselves act out and come to the Juvenile Court. Numerous studies link early child abuse and neglect to later involvement in the juvenile justice system. That means it’s when they’re sitting in a courtroom like mine that children are asked, often for the first time, about abuse.

Too often, we are using a child’s delinquent and criminal behavior to finally address the impact of child abuse. It must, for every single child, begin sooner.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Last year alone, Hamilton County Jobs & Family Services, reports serving more than 24,000 children and families and answering more than 51,000 hotline calls. In Hamilton County Juvenile Court, we heard just over 1,300 cases of abuse, neglect or dependency.

Read the entire op-ed here.

Pet Therapy = Unconditional Love

March 2023

We are excited to welcome two new therapists to our team at Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC). Winston and Amelia are with “Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy.”

Amelia, who is pictured here at the Youth Center, is a five-year-old Golden Retriever. Winston is also a Golden Retriever who is just a year and a half. With support from “Best Friends” trainer/handler Sarah Leonard, Winston and/or Amelia are at the Youth Center two days a week, spreading their non-judgmental love.

“We are always looking for ways to reduce stress and address trauma for our kids,” said HCJC Judge Kari Bloom. “Winston and Amelia provide comfort that the kids in our care need and can’t get anywhere else. Our kids come from all different backgrounds, and for some, it’s the first time they’ve had the opportunity to pet a dog and experience their unconditional acceptance and support.”

We’re grateful to have these four-legged therapists on our team and look forward to seeing the impact they will have.

Pet Therapy = Unconditional Love

Pet Therapy = Unconditional Love

HCJC Employees Get Creative for Black History Month

February 2023

In celebration of Black History Month, Hamilton County Juvenile Court employees came together to paint a mural that now hangs at the check in desk on the first floor of our building at 800 Broadway. The Court worked with local Black-owned business Soul Palette to create a multicultural design with children as a focus. “We wanted to put a lot of kids in the image and positive messaging like our future, children matter, and resilience, so people would know exactly what you are about,” said Brandon Hawkins, co-owner of Soul Palette, along with his wife Niki. Employees painted small pieces or sections of the mural, guided by Hawkins. The result is a bright, colorful, image of diverse children in front of the downtown Cincinnati skyline. A second mural was designed for the Court’s Youth Center at 2020 Auburn Ave. Students at the Youth Center will paint the mural this month, with guidance from art teacher Penny Harris.

HCJC Employees Get Creative for Black History Month

HCJC Employees Get Creative for Black History Month