Dr. Mimi Graham, director of Florida State University’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, has been honored with the 2020 Medal of Honor for a Non-Lawyer for her dedicated efforts over the course of her career researching and promoting trauma-informed court programs. Since 1993, she has worked to tackle policy solutions to social problems during the critical period from pregnancy to age three.
“For over 15 years, Dr. Graham has worked tirelessly to amplify the Florida Supreme Court’s 2001 opinion to ‘identify services and craft solutions that are appropriate for long-term stability and that minimize the need for subsequent court action’ by infusing therapeutic jurisprudence in Florida’s courts, and by educating lawyers, judges, guardians ad litem and court staff regarding the science of trauma and trauma-informed practice,” wrote Paolo Annino, director of FSU’s Public Interest Law Center, in his nomination.
In 2005, Graham and colleague Barbara White created the FSU Young Parents Project, an intensive program that addressed the complex trauma needs of delinquency in court-involved pregnant and parenting teens. Proven outcomes of the program are reduced recidivism, fewer subsequent teen pregnancies and increased education. Several years later, Graham helped establish Florida’s Early Childhood Courts (ECCs), which optimize child safety and well-being while expediting permanency and breaking the multigenerational cycle of child abuse by infusing early childhood science, attachment research and mental health intervention in the courts. There are now 25 ECCs across Florida.
“Decisions involving the welfare of a child are some of the most challenging and consequential decisions a court can be called upon to make,” wrote Chief District Judge Mark E. Walker in a letter recommending Graham for the award. “An interaction with the justice system will have tremendous ramifications for a child throughout its life. Dr. Graham’s assistance to the court system has been transformative. Dr. Graham enabled the courts to more effectively grapple with the subtleties of juvenile development, mental health and trauma. As a result of her contribution, courts are better able to intervene early and effectively to prevent, or at least mitigate, the effects of traumatic situations on children.”
Graham cofounded the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health in 2002. In 2014, she was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court, where she educated judicial leaders about the link between early trauma and court involvement. She is a Fellow of Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, and she received the 2019 Voice for Children Award. She is also a recipient of the 2017 Florida TaxWatch Productivity Award for Early Childhood Court, and Legal Services of North Florida’s Children’s Advocate Award.