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Santa Clara County, CA June 8, 2010 Election
Smart Voter

How Attorneys and Judges Can Impact Our Community

By Julia Alloggiamento

Candidate for Judge - Superior Court; County of Santa Clara; Office 19

This information is provided by the candidate
Attorneys and Judges have an obligation to address issues in the community beyond those that come before the court. I am proud of my impact through the Parent Project.
Attorneys and Judges have an obligation to reach beyond the courtroom to impact our community in a positive way. For the last several years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Community Prosecutor, working directly in and for the community, preventing criminal conduct particularly as it related to youth. I intend to continue serving the community as a neutral member of the bench.

I am in charge of multiple outreach programs through the District Attorney's Office or in collaboration with others. I have educated the community on the risks and consequences (legal and personal) to underage drinking and driving. A significant portion of my work in this area has been with judges from other counties, working closely with the Administrative Office of the Courts and locally with the Traffic Safe Communities Network. I have worked closely with school districts and local government (both city and county) to develop policies and provide resources for truant youth as a means to prevent further delinquent behavior. I have collaborated with community-based organizations to work on preventing and intervening in youth joining gangs in our county. I run the Law Related Education program for fifth graders countywide, teaching them principles of justice, responsibility, and authority. This program additionally provides students with the opportunity to obtain first-hand insight into our criminal justice system through tours of the courthouse, San Jose Police Department, and the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory and by participating in mock trials in an actual courtroom. Finally, I have worked as a liaison to the community, attending dozens of neighborhood meetings, community fairs, and town hall meetings.

One of my most significant contributions has been to implement and oversee the Parent Project in our county. After working in the juvenile justice system and then in the community, I repeatedly found parents saying to me, "What can I do? I don't know what to do." They needed solutions. While our county had several programs to assist teens struggling with a variety of issues, none were specifically geared to help their parents deal with these issues at home. The problem with focusing only on the teen is that when their program ends, if they do not have continuing support at home, their destructive behavior often returns.

I understood that to really combat the destructive behaviors of teens, it was necessary to empower their parents. With support from the District Attorney's Office, I collaborated with law enforcement agencies countywide, school districts countywide, community-based organizations, counseling agencies, the City of San Jose and the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force to bring the Parent Project to our county. The relationships that I had built with members of these various groups through my work as a Community Prosecutor allowed us to join forces to implement this program in our county on a large scale.

Parent Project is a Nationally-acclaimed program created by a police sergeant, an educator, a psychologist, and thousands of parents. It provides parents with strategies to actually change the most destructive behaviors they see in their teens, including truancy, drug and alcohol use, gang affiliation, violence, family conflict and running away. While other parenting courses stress communication, the truth is that for many strong-willed children, effective communication is not enough. Parent Project provides a straightforward, step-by-step action plan that allows parents to take immediate steps toward preventing or intervening in their children's negative choices.

Starting with a pilot program in the Eastside of San Jose in Spring 2008, this program has grown very quickly. We now offer seventeen classes in locations throughout the county in English and in Spanish. In addition, I am working on getting the voluminous workbook translated in Vietnamese so that we can offer the class to our Vietnamese community. Over 600 parents have graduated from this program, not including those currently enrolled.

For every class, we have two certificated facilitators, trained through the national program. I solicited law enforcement officers, community based organization workers, city staff, educators, and counselors to be trained as facilitators. I have worked with school districts and the City of San Jose to find locations to hold the classes in the most needy, high-risk areas. I oversee the program by supervising classes, meeting with the facilitators, reviewing the curriculum, providing additional resources to the families, conducting outreach, and working directly with the Presiding Judge of the juvenile courts, truancy courts, probation, the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force Technical Team, school districts, and health care providers to obtain referrals. The results have been overwhelmingly successful.

In evaluations conducted at the end of each12-week program, over ninety-five percent of participants gave the class their highest ranking, stating that it helped "very much" and expressing accolades for the teachers and curriculum. Many described it as a "life-changing experience." Almost all parents indicated that they wished they had taken the class sooner. Ninety-nine percent indicated they would recommend Parent Project to a friend, colleague, or family member, and many have actually done so. Parents completing the program described their households as calmer, more peaceful, and happier, with less screaming, yelling, and arguing. Many of the respondents even reported improved relationships with their spouse or ex-spouse.

Most importantly, the evaluations reflected significant changes in the youth. Most parents expressed that they had better communication with their child, with both parents and child expressing love more often and listening better. As to specific behavior, among other things, parents reported that their teens had better school performance, less truancy, and less use of illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco (with one parent reporting her son was drug free for 45 days and counting). Additionally, independent researchers found highly statistically significant decreases in the teens' scores for conduct disorder and aggression based on a widely used standardized test called the Behavioral Assessment Scale for Children (BASC-II).

While the quick growth of the Santa Clara County Parent Project and the research results all demonstrate the success of the program, the most meaningful results are the personal success stories I hear from the parents. I speak with many of the parents while conducting outreach and hear the frustration and despair in their voice and see the tears in their eyes. I then see these same families twelve weeks later at graduation -- smiling, appearing more peaceful and empowered. This drastic change in such a short period is amazing. One family described how they successfully pulled their son out of the gang life and now ate dinners together as a family. Another woman told me how she and her husband would have divorced had it not been for Parent Project. Many expressed deep gratitude for bringing such a needed program to the community. Having the opportunity to use my insight and experience in the criminal justice system, my relationships in the community and with local government, and my capacity to do outreach to bring forth a multidisciplinary program that has truly changed the lives of hundreds of families has been incredibly rewarding.

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