Benchmark Conferences Program Packet

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court - Judge Ernestine Gray In Louisiana, permanency hearings are held 12 months after a child comes into custody and every six months thereafter. Judge Ernestine S. Gray conducts Benchmark Conferences for youth between the ages of 14 and 18. These are intensive conferences designed to be supportive of the young person assuring that youth receive appropriate assessments, planning and supportive services. Particular emphasis is placed on educational issues ensuring that the youth has the tools and supports to be a successful student moving from graduation to secondary education. The benchmark conferences are on a special calendar set on Monday afternoons during the months of August, November, March and June. The caseworker's responsibilities in preparing for the conference are clearly set out in the protocol. One of those responsibilities is to assure that the young person attends the hearing, and that s/he has given thought to the matters to be discussed. A special notice of the hearing directed to the young person is provided to be delivered by the caseworker. In preparation for the benchmark conference, the youth should speak with her/his lawyer, CASA, social worker and the Child Identified Advocate if one has been designated, and complete the Youth's Report to the Court, and a Dream Sheet.* The forms will be provided to the youth at the time the special notice is given. In addition, the young person is asked to bring an adult with him or her to the conference. The teen is asked to identify a responsible adult that s/he can rely on and would like to have continued contact with in the coming years. The caseworker is to invite that person to be present at the conference. One of the goals of the conference is to ensure that there is a responsible adult involved in the life of every child who leaves the court. It is important to ascertain that the youth has a mentor who offers guidance and is a good role model for the teen. Beginning the search for the supporting adult at the youth's benchmark conference should allow time for identification of that person and facilitation of the development of the relationship between the adult and the youth.