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Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the community and reduced recidivism for former offenders.

Mississippi judiciary trains on the power of hope, inspiring Youth Courts judges and staff


Dr. Chan Hellman, leading researcher in the power of hope to improve lives of impoverished children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect, Justice Dawn Beam, and Christopher Freeze, co-chair of Mississippi ACEs Connection, on day three of presentations by Hellman to judges and staff members of Mississippi's Youth Courts.

“Hope is a better predictor of college success than the ACT or the SAT score” was one of the startling comments made by Chan Hellman, Ph.D., in the first of three trainings on the Power of Hope shared with members of the Youth Courts in Mississippi this week.

Hellman is a leading researcher in the power of hope to improve the lives of impoverished children and families who have experienced abuse and neglect. And the court-focused training programs where he presented are themselves a hope realized by Justice Dawn Beam, co-chair of the state’s Commission on Children’s Justice.

The 1,200 employees taking the one-day training work with abused and neglected children in the Youth Courts. Sessions were scheduled for Pearl, Oxford, and Gulfport.

"There is this real thirst for how we can make systemic change in our state,” Justice Beam said as she introduced Hellman at the first session.

Participants included judges and court staff, Department of Child Protection Services leaders and social workers; Department of Education school attendance officers; and representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health, and various child advocacy centers and service providers. Youth Court teams from each jurisdiction will participate as groups in the interactive training.

Resident Jurist John N. Hudson of Natchez, who is among the staff helping to lead the training, said that hope needs to be infused from the top down in all Youth Court settings. “We want everything that touches this court to be hope-centered – on the juvenile delinquency side, on the child protection side – so that when we bring those social workers into the courtroom, when we bring those juvenile counselors in the courtroom, their message is: We are about hope here.”

Hellman, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a professor of social work at the University of Oklahoma and director of The Hope Research Center. His research is focused on hope as a psychological strength, helping children and adults overcome trauma and adversity. He is the co-author of the book “Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life.

His approach includes teaching people to do three things:

  • set desirable goals
  • identify viable pathways to goals, finding solutions to the problems that stand in the way
  • maintain the willpower to pursue those goals.

“Hope is the belief that the future will be better, and you have the power to make it so,” Hellman said. Here are other highlights of his remarks:Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 10.08.39 AM

  • Imagination is the instrument of hope.
  • Hope begets hope.
  • Increased hope is an indicator of well-being.
  • The opposite of hope is apathy.
  • We can teach and nurture hope.
  • The collective hope of a group is a predictor of a group’s ability to achieve goals.
  • The biggest thing we can do for children is to let them know they matter.

The program agenda and training material are available here.

The Commission on Children’s Justice established Programs of HOPE to continue to address child neglect prevention. The idea is to create pathways of hope for children and families.

“We are committed to help them improve their lives,” Justice Beam said. “We believe this is possible one person, one family, one community at a time.”

The presentations are part of the Court Improvement Program. The programs are sponsored by the Commission on Children’s Justice and Casey Family Programs in cooperation with the Mississippi Judicial College.


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  • Screen Shot 2021-04-15 at 10.08.39 AM

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