27 Child L. Prac. 1 (2008-2009)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt27 and id is 1 raw text is: AN
Ch..ild Law Practice

Vol. 27 No. 1

March 2008

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Reducing Trauma for Children Involved in
Dependency and Criminal Court
by Debra Jenkins

C hildren involved in the dependency and criminal court systems
face various forms of trauma. For these children, the court
systems that are designed to help them may end up hurting them even
more. Practitioners in both systems need clear strategies to reduce
trauma to children caused by the court system.

This article explores how to reduce
trauma to children involved in depen-
dency and criminal court proceedings
through individual and collaborative
Court-Related Trauma
When a maltreated child is involved in
dependency and criminal court pro-
ceedings, the child may be flooded
with memories of the abuse or
neglect. This may cause the child to
 varying emotions
 a reliving of the event
 feelings of helplessness and
 posttraumatic stress disorder,
which causes intrusive and
recurrent memories of the event
 anxious dreams and fear of
repeated trauma
 avoidant or hypervigilant
 lowered cognitive performance
 lack of interest in activities
 constricted affect and
 persistent feelings of guilt

Children participating in depen-
dency and criminal proceedings are of-
ten required to speak to many different
people about the abuse they suffered.
This repeated questioning about the de-
tails of abuse and neglect can be con-
fusing and intimidating for the child.
Feelings of anxiety and shame can also
intensify during the court process.
Children can be easily scared and
uncomfortable about testifying in a
courtroom filled with unfamiliar adults
and intimidating judges and lawyers.
When the alleged abuse perpetrator is
a caregiver, parent, relative, or loved
one, children may blame themselves
for the legal action against that
Children may also believe that tes-
tifying about abuse and neglect in de-
pendency and criminal proceedings will
prevent them from returning home.
This contributes to feelings of guilt and
self-blame, particularly when siblings
have also been removed from home
and are upset with the sibling who dis-
closed details of abuse and neglect.
Practitioners' Roles
Social workers, attorneys and judges

each play a unique role in protecting
child witnesses from trauma caused
by participating in dependency and
criminal justice systems. Practitioners
have specific roles in protecting child
victims from added trauma through
improved communication, collabora-
tion, self-education, and by using
therapeutic services and witness
support programs.
Social Workers
Social workers are essential to
minimizing the trauma of children who
enter foster care. They are among the
first to have contact with the child
once abuse and/or neglect is disclosed.
Social workers have ongoing contact
with the child and their foster family
and stay informed about the child's
behaviors, feelings, and reactions to
participating in court. Social workers
make referrals that link a child to
(Continued on p. 6)
What's Inside:
10 Q&A
When Crime Touches Child
Welfare: A Quiz
Alaska and Nebraska
Enact Safe Haven Laws
Sibling Bonds and Separations
Practicing Preventative Law

E-mail: childlawpractice@staff.abanet.org *

Internet: http://www.childlawpractice.org

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