Thursday, March 12, 2009
Superior Court Renews Agreement With Mexican Consulate
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Superior Court and the county’s Department of Children and Family Services yesterday renewed an agreement with the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles to cooperate to provide assistance to Mexican families in pending court proceedings.
In a ceremony at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Courthouse, representatives signed a Protocol of Cooperation, marked the opening of a help desk at the courthouse to be staffed by Mexican consular officials and highlighted a new parenting and counseling program.
Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash and Dependency Court Supervising Judge Margaret Henry joined Consul General Juan Marcos Gutierrez-Gonzalez in signing the protocol, which renews a 1999 agreement intended to foster and enhance the entities’ institutional relationship.
The Superior Court said in a release that the protocol “will foster the relationship between the participants to better educate the Hispanic community about family matters, regardless of migratory status,” with the goal of working “together to secure the best interest of the children in the county and facilitate the reunification of Mexican families.”
Under the renewed protocol, the Superior Court pledged to notify the consulate when a parent or child involved in Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings is a Mexican national, to provide statistics to and exchange information with the consulate, and to allow consular officials to attend court hearings, request counsel for Mexican nationals and interview dependent children.
In exchange, the consulate agreed to inform DCFS of any contact made with Mexican nationals in Juvenile Dependency Court proceedings, provide services on a voluntary basis, and notify the court any time a consular official appears in court on behalf of a Mexican national.
As part of the agreement, a consular official will also staff a help desk at the courthouse one day a week to direct and orient Mexican nationals involved in pending proceedings as well as citizens of other countries, Gutierrez-Gonzalez said.
Addressing an audience assembled for the signing, the consul general commented that the agreement’s purpose was to unify families and provide greater stability for abused and neglected children, and he thanked Nash on behalf of the people and the government of Mexico for making the cooperation possible.
“A person like Judge Nash really cares about what’s important for the community,” he said, adding that the consulate—which he described as the largest Mexican consular post in the world—could not do its job “without a relationship like the one we have with this court.”
Nash expressed his appreciation for the consulate’s willingness to staff the help desk, which the judge said would provide assistance “in a much more expedient manner,” and thanked the consulate for providing the resources for the new parenting and counseling program in collaboration with the DCFS.
The program is being funded by the Mexican government, and the consul general—noting that the program’s first group of 22 parents recently completed their third session—said the program and help desk left parents without any excuse not to work with the court.
DCFS Director Patricia Ploehn, emphasizing that the new classes were free, also told those gathered that the program would “provide valuable information and skills to provide good care and meet the mandates of the court and the department.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company