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November 2004Vol. 5, No. 9Public Access to Court Child Protection Hearings

With the passage of the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, the most recent amendment to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, States were explicitly granted the flexibility to determine their own policies on opening child protection hearings to the public. A new Technical Assistance Brief from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), To Open or Not to Open: The Issue of Public Access in Child Protection Hearings, offers guidance on the issues States need to consider to make these decisions.

The publication presents arguments both for and against open hearings in three topical areas:

  • Best interests of the child
  • Public awareness of child abuse and neglect
  • Economic and procedural consequences

A State-by-State listing of the current legislation and hearing status and a brief overview of research on the effects of open hearings also are presented. The publication was funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. Copies may be purchased for $5.00 each by contacting NCJFCJ by e-mail at or by telephone at (775) 327-5300.