Tenacity turned into Treasure at San Francisco Court’s Children’s Waiting Room

What began in 1991, thanks largely to the tenacious work of some women lawyers, there is no need for parents or guardian to panic when faced with the dilemma of having to do business in a San Francisco courthouse without childcare.

The Children’s Waiting Room (CWR) is open and free for all who have court business in a San Francisco courthouse. Their flyer states, “We provide a safe place for infants, children and teens to have fun while their parents or guardian are doing business in the building. We serve families of parties in divorce or legal actions, witnesses and people called to serve as jurors.”

The visionaries that created this place of childcare peace and happiness for the thousands of minor children who accompany their parents or guardian to court each year was founded by the San Francisco Women’s Lawyers Alliance (SFWLA), with funding and support provided by the Superior Court of California was operated by the Northern California Service League (NCSL).

The NCSL, which has served California’s incarcerated and formally incarcerated since 1946, merged with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) in 2012. Today, CJCJ is proud to continue to, operate this jewel of a program, in the area of children services.

Today, the three women in charge of keeping order in the SF courts for CJCJ are, Deputy Director Dinky Manek Enty, site coordinator Denise Bradford and program manager Maire Larkin.

Opening the CWR in 1991 at the Hall of Justice, located at 850 Bryant Street was a statement of, shear, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The building is old and lacked accommodations for a children’s area, which is now law. But the determined women that saw a children’s room as an essential program were excited at the opportunity to have a Hall of Justice corridor turned into their Children’s Waiting Room.

Maire Larkin works the Hall of Justice CWR. Along with a part time assistant, she watches up to 5 little ones each day. When she has no children in the waiting room, Larkin roams the halls of 850 Bryant looking to inform some who might not know of such courthouse accommodations. In addition, Larkin performs another great and unique in San Francisco service. She schedules weekly one-on-one, hour long private visits, between incarcerated fathers housed at the Hall of Justice and their children.

Denise Bradford runs the 400 McAllister civil court CWR location, which is quite impressive. This children’s area was created in 1998 with the assistance of a new state law that mandates a children’s waiting room on all new courthouse construction.

Bigger than a two bedroom apartment, it beams with clean. And of its many amenities including the kitchen, sleep, changing area, lactose station and play area, it might be overlooked by a, parents dream… Next door to its regular size restroom is a toddler’s restroom; equipped with a built-in toddler size porcelain potty that on sight would, could convince a toddler to try and go solo in doing his or her business.

Not forgetting the teens, there is a PlayStation. And at the end of the year, there is a toy drive where all of the courthouse is invited to help stock Christmas gifts for many of the underprivileged that they serve throughout the year.

Bureaucracy was no match for the tenacity that made the Children’s Waiting Rooms happen and become a success. However, the CWR could use some volunteers or interns. You are encourage to go through the carefully screened volunteer process by first contacting Deputy Director Dinky Manek Enty at CJCJ at 415–621–5661 x120 www.cjcj.org

Children’s Waiting Room Hours:
Monday through Friday 8:30 am to 12:00 pm 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm, excluding holidays

Child and Family Visits:
Through the specialized waiting room in San Francisco County Jail #4, CJCJ manages and facilitates family visits between children and their incarcerated fathers, for inmates in Jail #4. Visits are conducted Monday through Friday afternoons from 1:00 pm to 6:30 pm.

Maire Larkin
Hall of Justice, Room 106
850 Bryant Street San Francisco, CA 94103 (415) 553–9377

Denise Bradford
Civil Courthouse, Room 111
400 McAllister Street San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 703–0255

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

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