Florida Bar Foundation bestows Medal of Honor on FSU center director

Mimi Graham, director of Florida State's Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy.
Mimi Graham, director of Florida State's Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy.

Mimi Graham, the director of Florida State University’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, has received the Florida Bar Foundation’s Medal of Honor for a non-lawyer.

It’s the foundation’s highest award and acknowledges Graham’s decades-long efforts helping to introduce intervention-based policies and trauma-informed programs into Florida courts.

FSU Law Professor Paolo Annino, the director of the FSU Public Interest Law Center, nominated Graham for the honor. Chief District Judge Mark E. Walker, Senior Circuit Judge Lee Haworth, and several other prominent members of the Florida Bar wrote letters in support of Graham’s nomination.

In his nomination letter, Annino singled out Graham’s “impressive contributions to the Florida State courts system and dedication to promoting trauma informed courts.”

“When you hear nice things said about you, you’re just happy someone noticed,” Graham said. “I hope the recognition will shine a spotlight on the importance of early interventions in helping children and families overcome trauma.”

Graham said her proudest accomplishment is partnering with the Florida Supreme Court to establish Florida’s Early Childhood Courts, which she affectionately calls “Baby Court.”

“Compelling data show that children in Early Childhood Court get out of the system faster to a permanent family, but more importantly, they are less likely to be abused again,” she said. “We had our 1,000th child go through the baby court earlier this year. Even with 24 baby courts across the state, we’re only serving less than 4 percent of eligible children. My goal is that all babies and young children could benefit from Florida’s Early Childhood Court.”

In 2005, in response to a Miami judge’s frustration with multigenerational families in court, Graham and her colleague Barbara White created the FSU Young Parents Project. The goal was to address the trauma needs of delinquency in court-involved pregnant and parenting teens. Since the program’s inception, it has proven to reduce recidivism, decrease subsequent pregnancies and increase education.

Graham co-founded the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health in 2002. In 2014, Graham 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 the trauma to prison pipeline. 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 Tax Watch Productivity Award for Early Childhood Court, and Legal Services of North Florida’s Children’s Advocate Award.