• January 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 1

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Child- and Adolescent-Fair Courtrooms

A recent issue of CenterPiece, the peer-reviewed newsletter of the National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC), presents the perspective of a frightened 7-year-old girl who was the victim of sexual abuse. Through her eyes, readers experience the intimidating world of the criminal and family court system. The article highlights the need for child- and adolescent-fair courtrooms, because when children feel comfortable, their testimony is more accurate and efficient and they experience less retraumatization.

The issue discusses the many challenges of and the considerations that should be made when children and adolescents appear in the courtroom and during other legal proceedings, including the following:

  • Different methods available to help children better prepare for court
  • Examples of how to make courtrooms more accommodating and comfortable for children
  • The importance of having a sympathetic and trusted person or therapy animal and/or a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket on hand to provide comfort to the child
  • New language for a child-fair oath because the typical oath is not developmentally appropriate for most children and can adversely affect a child's understanding and perceived competency
  • The use of anatomical dolls, diagrams, and drawing boards to help a child who is frightened and unable to find the right words to use

"A Courtroom for All: Creating Child and Adolescent-Fair Courtrooms," by Allie Phillips, J.D., and Susanne Walters, CenterPiece, 3(7&8), 2013, is available on the NCPTC website:

http://www.ncptc.org/vertical/Sites/%7B8634A6E1-FAD2-4381-9C0D-5DC7E93C9410%7D/uploads/CenterPiece.NL.Vol3.Iss78.pdf (3 MB)

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