Vermont Law School and DCF to infuse state work with restorative justice principles

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Vermont Law School and DCF to infuse state work with restorative justice principles

Thu, 01/20/2022 - 8:22am -- tim

DCF staffers enroll in the school’s Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice program.  

Vermont Business Magazine Professionals from Vermont’s Department for Children and Families-Family Services Division (DCF-FSD) will learn how to further incorporate the principles of restorative justice in their work under a new partnership with Vermont Law School’s (VLS) Center for Justice Reform (CJR). 

The collaboration with VLS and DCF-FSD allows for up to eight DCF-FSD staff and Balanced and Restorative Justice providers to enroll in the school’s three-course, nine-credit Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice. Collectively, the courses explore how rule-based responses often deny the parties most affected by a harmful event or relationship a meaningful voice in shaping a response and deny the party who caused the harm the opportunity to properly make amends. By incorporating restorative dialogue into their work, DCF-FSD professionals can also help teach families how better to interact and engage with each other and their community, important tools for family stability.

“Staff who work in the child and family protection and youth justice fields need an understanding of the legal environment in which they work as well as how to support and devise creative responses for children and families through challenging times,” said Lindy Boudreau, DCF’s juvenile justice director. “The Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice will provide our staff with the opportunity to gain an understanding of restorative justice responses to harm and the ways that restorative responses to family trauma can build on family strengths and keep families unified to the extent consistent with the child and family’s best interests.” 

For VLS, the partnership provides the opportunity to make an impact close to home, while also serving as a model for how its educational programs can help inform and enhance the work of government entities, both in Vermont and beyond its borders.   

“As the only law school in Vermont, VLS has a special obligation to share its expertise with others within the state,” said VLS Professor Robert Sand, founding director of CJR. “This partnership with DCF will not only help bring more restorative justice knowledge to the important work of helping Vermont families stay strong, but will also serve as an example to other Vermont agencies and departments looking to infuse their work with restorative practices.”

The first cohort has begun taking classes and will complete the certificate program next summer. Participants in the program will be asked to identify a way in which they can operationalize their learning and infuse restorative practices into their work, at either the micro or macro level. Certificate credits will be transferrable to the school’s Master of Arts in Restorative Justice at VLS for those wishing to deepen their understanding of restorative justice theory and practice and earn an advanced degree. 

About the Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School: The Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School provides an education to transform justice systems. The center offers degree and training programs for law and master’s students as well as criminal justice professionals, educators, and other community members who seek to develop alternative, less punitive, responses to harm. Academic offerings include a Master of Arts in Restorative Justice (MARJ) degree, a joint JD/MARJ degree program, and a Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice.

Source: VLS SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (Jan. 19, 2022)