FAMILY COURT MEMBERS GO THE EXTRA MILE TO CONNECT
WITH THE YOUNG WOMEN OF GRACE COTTAGE
Around 5:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, Jennifer Ellsworth-Aults, law clerk to Judges Aida Waserstein and Barbara Crowell, can be seen heading off to Grace Cottage on the Ferris School Campus on Centreville Road in New Castle County. Grace Cottage is the staff-secured residential facility that houses adolescent girls. While residents can be as young as 12, most of the girls, some of whom are pregnant, are between 14 and 17. The capacity of Grace Cottage is 14 girls but 8-10 is more common.
When asked about the program's value to the girls, a Grace Cottage supervisor stated,
"It's nice to see you out of your robes and suits and to connect with you on a personal level."
Each month, Jennifer and Judge Crowell along with some of the other Family Court law clerks, and occasionally a couple of attorneys and interested adults, meet with the residents for pizza and a joint activity that can include baking, team sports, craft projects, board games, yoga, or zumba. Sometimes the girls will meet with an interesting adult from the community about that adult's job or passion. "You put a message in our head to go out and do the right thing," said one resident when remembering a recent presentation by Agent Pam Marshack of the Delaware State Police. "It gives us a different outlook," another resident commented. About twice a year the girls take a tour behind the scenes of the Grand Opera House, meet a performer, and watch the Delaware Symphony Orchestra rehearse. In addition to a nice night out, the tour provides the girls with a new experience.
Judge Crowell began meeting with the girls at the New Castle Detention Center eight years ago in 2004, after learning from the girls who appeared before her that they enjoyed talking with adults and had few positive female role models in their lives. Attorneys from the Women and the Law Section and the Family Court judges, commissioners, and law clerks were also invited to participate. A year later, when Grace Cottage reopened under the direct operation of the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services, the monthly activities continued at Grace. Judge Crowell's law clerks over the years, aided by other Family Court law clerks, have taken
responsibility for organizing the monthly activities.
For the last several years, the Women and the Law Section of the DSBA has generously paid for the cost of the pizza that is a welcomed treat each month. All attorneys and judicial officers are invited to participate.