• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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A Call for Child-Witness Court Preparation Programs

A child's experience with the justice system can be terrifying, and the fear may hinder a child's ability to testify truthfully and effectively in court. A recent issue of CenterPiece, the official newsletter of the National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC), discusses the importance of court preparation for children required to testify. Author Jodie Walker, Executive Director for the Adams County, PA, Children’s Advocacy Center, draws on her nearly 20 years of work and research in this area to provide recommendations for preparing child witnesses.

A comprehensive preparation program, according to Walker, is designed to decrease stressors that may hinder credible testimony by children. "Preparation is necessary as children are ill-prepared for the demands of being a witness, simply due to their inherent vulnerability, age, limited social awareness, lack of life experiences, and naive understanding of the criminal justice system." These limitations, in turn, dictate that goals of a successful child-witness program: 

  • Demystify the court process through education
  • Reduce fear and anxiety about testifying through stress-reduction techniques
  • Empower children through emotional support

The article also features the five components of a good preparation and support program: education, role play and practice, relaxation and anxiety management, court accompaniment and support, and debriefing and follow-up.

"If I'm 'The Party,' Where's the Cake?: The Need for Comprehensive Child-Witness Court Preparation Programs," was published in the August 2011 (Volume 3, Issue 1) issue of CenterPiece and is available on the NCPTC website:

http://ncptc.nonprofitoffice.com/vertical/Sites/%7B8634A6E1-FAD2-4381-9C0D-5DC7E93C9410%7D/uploads/CenterPiece.NL.Vol3.Iss1.pdf (2.96 MB)

 

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