On September 14, 2012, I traveled and spoke with Jeanette Pai-Espinosa, President of The National Crittenton Foundation at a meeting in Washington DC. The meeting was with The Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

While sitting there listening to some of the topics spoken by the panelists; the treatment of young women in the juvenile system; the issues trafficking victims are forced to deal with; how teenagers currently in the foster care system are ‘dealt’ with when they’re still having children of their own; and the mountains they have to climb. Alarms started going off in my head. Thoughts like: “Are you kidding me? This is STILL happening? Isn’t it 2012? ” The answer is…yep. It sure is. As I sat there, two emotions swirled around me. The first emotion was a feeling of gratitude that engulfed me because luckily I was one of few that the system worked for.

I received and RESPONDED to the services that were offered, therefore completely avoiding the juvenile system that damages so many of my younger sisters. The second emotion that was ignited was a fierce frustration to make changes and not let maltreatment and discourse happen to these young women any longer. SERVICES work. CELLS do not. The bottom line is, had I NOT gotten residential placement with Crittenton Services, had I been placed in ‘Juvi’, the thought of who I would be today (if I would have made it today) scares me to death and makes my heart bleed for the girls who are there and simply need to heal.

I explained to the council how I, myself endured severe physical and emotional abuse by my father, was simply not coming home at night, skipping school and began experimenting with drinking and drugs and how I was subsequently taken from my father on two separate occasions, ultimately ending up in the hands of the staff of Florence Crittenton Services of Michigan, a residential home for girls. When I told the council this, after listening what happens to most of the girls who do go through the juvenile system, I realized how darned lucky and blessed I was…and am to this day.

— Dani DeLand