The Ohio State Bar Association announced this year’s winner of the Judicial Administration and Legal Reform Committee Innovative Court Practices Award is the Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court, for its Girls’ Craft Group project, now known as the GIRLS (Gaining Invaluable Relationships & Learning coping Skills) Group.

The purpose of the Innovative Court Practices Award is to bring greater visibility to exemplary programs in Ohio’s courts and facilitate the transfer of those programs to other courts in the state.

Award submissions are evaluated on criteria including creativity, the newness of the program and its effectiveness, as well as the transferability of the concept to other courts and whether the program addresses significant issues that are regional in scope.

OSBA President Ronald S. Kopp presented the award at the annual meeting of the Ohio Judicial Conference in Columbus. Judge David A. Hejmanowski accepted the award on behalf of the Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court.

To help curb fighting among female juveniles involved with the court, the GIRLS Group was created to allow these young women to meet in an appropriate, approved setting, and to process issues they face in their daily lives while working on creative craft projects.

Kopp said of the project, “The GIRLS Group demonstrates that innovative programs don’t have to be costly to be effective. I congratulate Judge Hejmanowski and his staff on the success of this worthy program.”

Staff funding for this program comes from the court’s general fund and from the Central Ohio Mental Health Center, whose liaisons facilitate the group. Employees donate the craft supplies. Startup costs for this program were minimal, and operational costs are kept low because facilitators operate mainly on donations from within the court.

The group provides a safe, neutral space for these young women to discuss the reasons for their differences, while strengthening the bonds of female friendship.

Although girls’ groups of all varieties have existed for many years, this group is innovative in that it is driven by the young women themselves. During their weekly sessions, they hold themselves and each other accountable by sharing both successes and regrets.

Topics are generated either by the girls or by the facilitators who assist them. These weekly 90-minute meetings provide the girls with community service credit and are fluid in nature, allowing the girls to begin the program as their personal schedules allow. Since its inception, the group has grown from four participants to as many as 14 in a given week.

Staff report