Monday, March 8, 2010
San Fernando Courthouse Celebrates Opening of Child Waiting Room
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
North Valley Judicial District Supervising Judge Robert J. Schuit and Stephen T. Holzer, president of the Valley Community Legal Foundation of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky on Friday in celebrating the opening of the San Fernando courthouse’s child waiting room.
Schuit told the assemblage of approximately 50 judicial officers, attorneys and invited guests that the “news these days is all doom and gloom” but Friday’s celebration was an opportunity “to do something that kind of brings a smile to our faces.”
Holzer remarked that the “germ of the idea” came from the VCLF, which contributed “its few shekels” towards funding construction, but the majority of the funding came from the county, via Yaroslavsky’s office.
“This is a living example about your local government and your local community actually stepping up to the line to make a difference,” he opined, emphasizing that the San Fernando courthouse project was the second child waiting room that the supervisor had helped build.
The VCLF and Yaroslavsky worked together to open a similar facility at the Van Nuys courthouse in November 2008, and the supervisor said that he had “learned a few things” from the prior project, which was eight years in the making, so that the San Fernando child waiting room could open on schedule.
Sonia Valentine, a regional director for the Children’s Creative Learning Centers, which staffs and operates the waiting room, said the facility opened to the public March 1, as planned.
Yaroslavsky said that the child waiting room “was not a capital project,” but “an investment in people.”
Pointing to a young child attending the festivities, Yaroslavsky insisted that “it’s all about her and her colleagues that frequent this place.”
The supervisor’s office contributed $280,000 of the $330,000 needed to build the waiting room, Schuit said, although he joked that he had made an attempt to secure the needed funds from his sock drawer before approaching the county for assistance. The San Fernando Valley Bar Association and VCLF raised the remaining $50,000.
He explained that the San Fernando courthouse was selected for the project since it was the only large court facility in the San Fernando Valley area that did not offer a child waiting room, now that the Van Nuys location had one.
Child waiting rooms are also available at the Airport, Antelope Valley, Stanley Mosk, Compton, Long Beach, Pomona and Santa Monica courthouses.
The San Fernando courthouse’s children’s waiting room is open daily, except court holidays and furlough days, from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 1:15 to 4:30 p.m..
It is located on the ground floor of the courthouse, next to the Self-Help Legal Access Center and the cafeteria. The room is staffed by two professional child caregivers and can accommodate up to 10 toilet-trained children aged 2 1/2 to 13 whose parents or caregivers are conducting courthouse business, Valentine said.
The facility provides snacks, arts and crafts, DVDs, books, puzzles, games, dress-up clothing and a Nintendo Wii video game system for the children.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company