Healthy Relationships Girls Group Forms in Lawrence

Healthy Relationships Group has formed to help high risk girls ages eleven to seventeen. The eight week group, sponsored by Women’s Fund of Essex County and facilitated by Children’s Friend and Family Services, is a judgment free group where young girls choose topics that relate to their lives and gain support from peers and facilitators to choose a better path. Along with sharing stories and gaining skills, girls have the opportunity to become a future Girls Group leader.

The group was initially started in Lowell through the Juvenile Court Clinic with much success. The group was formed as a result of a task force developed by Judge Newman, First Justice for Essex County Juvenile Court, who has growing concerns over the increase of runaway girls in the Lawrence area and the high risks of human trafficking. “We are focusing on needs of this vulnerable group who are often victims of trauma, domestic violence and sexual exploitation. We hope to create a safe place where these girls can gain support and skills and ultimately better outcomes in their lives,” said Judge Newman. The goal of the Lawrence group is to replicate the success of the Lowell group here in Lawrence to bridge the gap of services and community supports for these high risk girls.

“We anticipate that the Healthy Relationships Girls Groups will allow the Juvenile Court System and community partners to have regular and voluntary feedback on current resources, access, and successes from at-risk girls,” said Carla Saccone, Children’s Friend and Family Services President and CEO.   Graduates of the first cohort of the Girls Groups will each bring experiential knowledge of Lawrence Juvenile Court and access concerns to community based services in their new roles as volunteers, mentors, employees, and/or interns. Participants will graduate with a community-engagement and leadership plan. Connections will be made per participant’s interest with current or future community partners.

Community partners include North East Regional Court Clinic-Probation Department, North East Regional Court Clinic-Diversion Program, Essex County District Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program, Lawrence Youth Team, Massachusetts Department of Children and Family CRA Division, Massachusetts Department of Youth Services  and Judge Newman, Lawrence Juvenile Court.

For more information, contact Ashley Mahoney at 978- 651-8982.