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For immediate release: April 24, 2007
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig

Chief Justice James R. Zazzali Announces Task Force to Address Needs of Children in Domestic Violence Cases

Today Chief Justice James R. Zazzali and Department of Children and Families Commissioner Kevin M. Ryan announced that the Judiciary and the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) will form a joint task force to address the needs of children and parents who are the victims of domestic violence.

The announcement was made at the 2007 Domestic Violence Conference, an annual event at which family court judges meet to discuss issues, case law and legislation related to domestic violence. About 350 people attended today's conference, including 115 judges. Also in attendance were Judiciary managers and staff, representatives from DYFS and representatives from the Office of the Attorney General.

In his keynote address, Chief Justice Zazzali discussed a number of issues that confront the courts and DYFS in ensuring the safety of children in homes where domestic violence has been found. One of the biggest challenges is weighing the risk of harm to the child in the home, versus the risk of harm that removing the child might cause.

The challenge, said Chief Justice Zazzali, is to weigh the facts of each case, keeping in mind the physical and emotional needs of domestic violence victims and their children. "Can we keep victims and their children safe and offer them the services they will need to deal with the fall-out?" he asked. "That, I believe, is where we need to put our energy."

Ryan also addressed the conferees and announced that representatives from the state's private domestic violence agencies will deploy later this year staff into New Jersey's 46 DYFS offices to partner with the child welfare system to serve victims of family violence.

"We are going to create a strong public-private partnership to achieve safety, stability and sanctuary for domestic violence victims," Ryan said.

Chief Justice Zazzali's keynote address and his closing remarks are attached.

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