Bristol County Juvenile Court First Justice Bettina Borders writes:
"The Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over children who are the subject of abuse and neglect. The statute covering these cases requires a child about whom there is an allegation of abuse or neglect be brought before the court to be identified by a judge and thereafter excused from any further proceedings.
These kids are not in the court as defendants or status offenders and often have never been in a court. They are now in foster care AND being brought to a judge by a social worker or foster parent. It is, as you can imagine, an unsettling and scary prospect.
A number of years ago, a minister from Fall River asked if I might be able to use Beanie Babies in the court. This was after he had attended both our Drug Court and Changing Lives Through Literature programs. I immediately thought of the abused and neglected kids. He supplied us many large garbage bags filled with Beanie Babies in excellent condition.
Over the years we have gone through the thousands of Beanie Babies given us. This year, we ran out. I began buying them and asked court staff if they had any stuffed animals in good condition to consider bringing them in.
Social workers have told me the one item the kids bring from one foster home to another are their Beanie Babies. When the kids get the Beanie, their faces go from shy and afraid to smiling and beaming...even the 15-year old boys! One of our interns from the UMass Law School saw we were running out of Beanie Babies this year. As a result of her effort, our court was presented with 300 Beanie Babies from the students, staff and faculty of UMass Law School this spring. It was quite a surprise and really a statement of the public service focus of the law school.
My bookshelves are now full of Beanie Babies once again and we can continue to make these kids a little more relaxed, comfortable and smiling when they come to the courthouse.
I later learned that a Civil Procedure class at UMass Law collected $50.00 to buy Beanie Babies. Why Beanie Babies? They are small, not overwhelming, have names, dates of birth and can be packed easily. Kudos to Dean MaryLu Bielek and the students of the UMASS Law School!"