• March 2007
  • Vol. 8, No. 2

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Involving Children in Dependency Court Hearings

Studies show that youth involvement in dependency court hearings can benefit both the youth and the court. Youth gain a sense of control over their lives and a better understanding of the judicial process, and the court has an opportunity to learn more about the child than what is presented in reports. However, little guidance exists to help professionals involve children in court proceedings in meaningful ways.

A new article, "Seen and Heard: Involving Children in Dependency Court," provides an overview of national policies of judicial and bar associations addressing children's participation in court and discusses the benefits of such participation. It then offers suggestions for reforming practice, policy, and systems to better engage youth in the court process.

Recommendations include:

  • Each jurisdiction should have a clear policy about how and when youth can participate in hearings; policies should take into account such factors as the youth's wishes, age, and the impact of participation.
  • State statutes or court rules should state a presumption favoring youth appearing in court but including criteria for exceptions.
  • Absent a statute or court rule, courts should implement administrative policies describing when youth should be present in court.
  • Practices for youth representatives should encourage youth participation and establish minimum qualifications, meetings, and involvement on the part of the representative.
  • Court settings should be youth friendly.
  • Agency and school policies should encourage youth participation.

The article was written by Andrea Khoury and published in the December 2006 issue of ABA Child Law Practice, Vol. 25(10). Reprints of the article can be requested online:

www.abanet.org/child/clp/reprints.html

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