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Strength in Families Receives the Lee Ann Miller Award

June 7, 2023

By Brendan Baptiste Communications Office
Photo of the Corrections Strength in Families (SIF) team

The 2023 group recipient of the Lee Ann Miller Award is the Department of Corrections Strength in Families (SIF) team. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Baptiste, Department of Corrections)

The Children’s Justice Conference, an extraordinary event held annually, has emerged as a transformative platform dedicated to providing professionals with training, skills and development in the identification, investigation and prosecution of child maltreatment. Held in Tacoma Washington, approximately 1400 people would attend this event to address the challenges faced by children and chart a path towards justice and equality. The conference serves as a catalyst for change, fostering collaboration, innovation and a shared commitment to protecting and empowering youth.

Washington States Children’s Justice Task Force (CJTF) was created in October 1987, pursuant to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which details the requirements of the Children’s Justice Act. The mission of the interdisciplinary task force is to further the goals of the Children’s Justice Act by providing recommendations to Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in the development, establishment, and operation of programs that promote safety and protection of children.

To meet these goals, improvements are made in the legislative, administrative, and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases, handling of child fatality cases in which child abuse or neglect is suspected and the handling of cases involving children with disabilities or serious health related problems who are victims of abuse or neglect.

Every year during the Children’s Justice Conference, an exceptional member and group from the Children’s Justice Task Force are honored by receiving the Lee Ann Miller Award.

Lee Ann Miller was the lead counsel for Children’s Administration at the time of her death from cancer at age 47 in early 1998. She was a recognized expert in juvenile law and the field of child advocacy. In 1979, she joined the Attorney General’s Office and shortly became lead counsel to Administration for Children, Youth and Family, the predecessor of the Children’s Administration. She was known not only for her professionalism and compassion, but also for her sense of humor and captivating presence.

Since 1992, the Lee Ann Miller Award has been presented to those who have made the greatest impact towards the Children’s Justice Act of 1976. However, due to the COVID pandemic, no awards were presented in 2021 and 2022.

With this year’s return to the conference, the 2023 group recipient is the Washington State Department of Corrections Strength in Families (SIF) team. The SIF is an incarcerated individual program offered through the ReFORM (Responsible Fatherhood Opportunities for Reentry and Mobility) grant. This voluntary program offers classes to incarcerated individuals who are up to nine months pre-release, to help build key knowledge and skills in the area of healthy relationships, parenting and employment or education readiness.

“It is amazing to be recognized by a fellow state agency for our efforts to prepare fathers for their return to their families! It is such important work to be done to ensure safety of families and our communities. “Says Susan Leavell, Senior Administrator of Strength in Families.

“So proud of this team and their being recognized for the critical role they play in family reunification!” Says Scott Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of Corrections,” The small but impressive group continues to think and perform out of the box thinking to improve the lives of children, destigmatize the role corrections plays and the power of family.”