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jetta-bernier photoJetta Bernier, MA
Executive Director

Jetta Bernier has led Massachusetts Citizens for Children as its Executive Director since 1984, having provided leadership in the areas of child abuse prevention, family support, and child welfare reform.

She directs the "Enough Abuse Campaign," a citizen education and mobilization effort working through the MA Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership to prevent child sexual abuse in communities across the state. The initiative funded through a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2007, is currently supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In 2012 she co-authored the peer-reviewed article published in the Journal on Child Sexual Abuse entitled, “The Enough Abuse Campaign: Building the Movement to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts”.  She serves on the Executive Committee of the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.

She is Co-Chair of the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, a grassroots coalition that succeeded in 2006 in extending the state's criminal Statute of Limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and that is working to pass the Comprehensive Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Act of 2009 to address gaps in current laws.

Jetta co-produced with Alvid Productions, Inc.  in 2008, "It's Not Just Jenna," an 18-minute video about child sexual abuse and its prevention.  She developed its companion "Learning and Discussion Guide,"  which are now being used to educate parents, youth and youth-serving professionals in several states.

In 1996, Jetta launched MCC's Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) public education campaign which evolved into the current SBS Prevention Center at MCC. She co-developed the first accredited program for nurses on SBS prevention which is being used to train maternity nurses and health providers in hospitals.  She wrote "Infant Crying and Soothing" What You Need To Know To Keep Your Baby Safe," a teaching tool for parents about SBS and its prevention.  Both have been widely distributed in Massachusetts and across the country.  She has coordinated SBS prevention coalitions in Worcester and Hampden Counties and recently developed the 2-DVD set "SBS Prevention: A Training for Family-Serving Professionals."  The tool and its companion presentation for "Parents and Caregivers" are being distributed to a wide range of community organizations serving parents of young children.

In 1991, Jetta was selected by The Boston Parents' Paper to receive its "Public Friend of Children" Award. Voices for America's Children awarded her its Florette Angel Child Advocate Award in 1997 for her 20 years of leadership and effective advocacy on behalf of children. In 2000, she became the first recipient of the "Woman of Achievement Award" presented by the Miss Massachusetts Organization for her "exemplary zeal and devotion" as a child abuse prevention advocate. In 2002 the Boston Celtics presented her with its "Heroes Among Us" Award honoring "individuals who, through their unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, have made exceptional and lasting contributions" to our state. In May 2007 the Massachusetts Dental Society honored her with the Allard Award in recognition of her leadership to prevent child abuse in the Commonwealth.

In 1998, Jetta oversaw a two-year effort involving over 200 child advocates and policymakers that culminated in the release of the nation's first "State Call to Action to End Child Abuse in Massachusetts." It was hailed by the Boston Globe as "a unique document, the first effort in any state to examine the broad spectrum of issues that can result in abuse and neglect, and to offer a comprehensive, systemic approach aimed at dramatically improving the treatment of children in Massachusetts.... indications are tha tit will have considerable influence, and possibly, frame the way in which the state deals with abuse and neglect issues in the future..."

On the legislative front, Jetta worked with prosecutors and the medical community around passage of a child neglect law that now allows egregious cases of child abuse to be prosecuted as a felony. In response to the death of 2-year old Robin Twitchell, she helped organize the Coalition to Repeal Exemptions to Child Abuse Laws (CRECAL) which successfully repealed legal  language in Massachusetts law that had allowed parents of faith-healing sects to withhold medically necessary care for their seriously ill children.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors of CHILD, Inc.,  the leading national organization working to protect the rights of children to receive medically necessary care.

Her early collaboration in 1990 with the American Bar Association engaged policymakers in discussions about the need for a child death review system and set in motion efforts that led to passage of Massachusetts' current system.

Under her leadership, MCC secured in 1989 one of nine demonstration grants through the federal National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect to reduce child abuse and strengthen families in an inner-city, racially diverse community. The $1 million dollar, five-year project - Dorchester CARES - became the model for over twenty family support collaboratives across the state.

In 1985 Jetta conceived and oversaw production of the first statewide media campaign fo rtelevision on child sexual abuse prevention. The campaign won international and state awards and was adopted in a dozen states. In the late 80s, she provided the private sector leadership behind development of the first State Plan on child abuse prevention and co-authored "Child Abuse and Neglect: A Resource for Policymakers and Advocates"  acclaimed as an invaluable prevention tool to guide public policy and prevention programming.

From 1981-84, Jetta was senior staff at Prevent Child Abuse America in Chicago,where she provided technical assistance to states in the development of prevention programs and policies.  Prior to then, she was Program Director of the Connecticut Child Welfare Association, where she directed the statewide child abuse reporting and parental stress line, provided technical assistance to communities seeking to establish local child abuse prevention programs, and spearheaded passage of key child protection legislation.

She was a founder and co-president of the National Parent Aide Association and has served on numerous commissions, including the Governor's Foster Care Commission, the Special Commission on Violence Against Children, and the Governor's Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence.

She received her Masters degree in psychology from Columbia University and her undergraduate degree from New York University.

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