When NCJW member Natalie Kaplan, wife of the Honorable Judge Lawrence Kaplan, voiced her concern about children left in the halls of the courthouse while their parents dealt with legal matters, we saw a need. The result was the first Children’s Waiting Room, which opened in 1980.
Since NCJW member Jane Lobl established the first waiting room on the dark and smoky sixth floor of the City-County Building, we have established bright and inviting rooms in the new Family Division Facility and in the Criminal and Municipal Courthouses. Today, the three Children’s Rooms offer free books for every child who uses the facilities, sponsor therapy dog programs, and provide basic clothing and supplies to women and children who come in times of great need.
The Children’s Rooms in the courts serve hundreds of children each month, both from families with court business and jurors, at no cost to parents. Since 2001, the Rooms have provided almost 60,000 children with a safe haven removed from the stress and difficulties of the courtroom. This is the only such service in the country run by a non-profit.
The Rooms serve infants through teens. Each Room contains toys, games, books, crafts, computers, and video games. All children who visit the playrooms receive snacks, lunch, and an age-appropriate book to take home and keep (supplied by our Book Drive). A director, trained staff, and volunteers operate the Rooms. All staff and volunteers have the required Pennsylvania clearances. Allegheny County funds construction and provides ongoing financial support.