• July/August 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 7

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Trauma-Focused Courts

Recognizing that traditional court proceedings typically fail to address the underlying problems for parents who have suffered trauma, a family court in upstate New York has worked to institute trauma-informed practice in its court procedures. "Do No Harm: Trauma-Focused Courts," an article recently published by Rise magazine, describes the work of Judge Judith Claire of the Chautauqua County Family Court and Aimee Neri, a licensed social worker who is the New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project Liaison to the 8th Judicial District, in bringing awareness of trauma into the court.

The work has been supported by a grant to work with the University of Buffalo, the New York State Child Welfare Court Improvement Project, and Chautauqua County Tapestry to develop a trauma-informed court. Steps in the process have included:

  • A kickoff meeting that included all stakeholders to explain the goals of the project and to introduce the concept of trauma-informed practice
  • Training about trauma and trauma-informed care
  • Building collaboration with stakeholders, including social workers, psychologists, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers, attorneys for children, public defenders, and Department of Social Services attorneys, and caseworkers

Judge Claire and Neri have found that applying trauma-informed practices to court proceedings must be based on five principles—safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. They have noted that people coming to court are responding in positive ways, including participating more fully and coming away with more positive attitudes. Other positive outcomes can be seen in youth attendance at court hearings, parents' attendance at engagement conferences, and using permanency mediation rather than termination proceedings. Permanency is being achieved sooner and the court is seeing more resolutions and settlements,

This article, by Sonia Diaz, is available on the Rise website:


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