The Judges' Page newsletter is published by the National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

September 2012

The Voices of Children and Youth in Dependency Courts

Judge Dean LewisJudges' Page Editor Judge J. Dean Lewis (retired)

Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

 

The National CASA Association and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) have always exhibited a steadfast commitment to ensuring that the voices of children and youth are heard in the dependency courts across the United States. Recently, the board of trustees of NCJFCJ unanimously passed the "NCJFCJ Children in Court Policy Statement," (88 KB PDF) which states: 

It is the policy of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges that children of all ages should be present in court and attend each hearing, mediation, pre-trial conference, and settlement conference unless the judge decides it is not safe or appropriate.

Articles in this issue focus on the importance of involving children and youth in all phases of the dependency court process so that their voices can be heard by the court, the parties and all participants involved in making decisions affecting their lives.

Articles in this issue:

  • Welcoming Children in Dependency Court: Judge Michael Nash, president-elect of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ),  offers background on the Los Angeles County, CA, experience of providing a child sensitive facility for children to participate in the dependency court process. Judge Nash introduces the “NCJFCJ Children in Court Policy Statement."
  • Technical Assistance Brief Supports Child and Youth Engagement in Court: Andrea Khoury, of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, Andrea Khoury, of the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, introduces the collaborative work of the ABA and NCJFCJ entitled Seen, Heard and Engaged: Children in Dependency Court Hearings.
  • One Judge’s Perspective on Children in Court: Judge Nan Waller of Portland, OR, shares her experiences with children attending dependency court hearings and notes the benefits to both the child and judge when such participation is encouraged.
  • Dependency Teen Court in Santa Clara County: Judge Shawna Schwarz of the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, CA, started a dependency teen court where youth attend an informal hearing every six to eight weeks. She expresses the importance to youth in knowing that the “system” cares about them, that the judge knows them and that they had a voice in their case.
  • Judicial Reflections on Children in Court: Judge Cindy S. Lederman of the 11th Judicial District, Miami-Dade, FL, states that children of all ages must be brought into the courtroom and reflects upon her years observing the behaviors of children she has welcomed into her courtroom.
  • Child Protection Mediation: An Opportunity for Youth Involvement: Judge Len Edwards (ret.), judge-in-residence, Center for Families, Children and the Courts, California Administrative Office of the Courts, explains the importance of child protection mediation and the importance of involving youth in the decisions affecting their dependency court case.
  • Giving Children Their Say in CourtProfessor Donald N. Duquette of the University of Michigan Law Center summarizes the reasons for allowing children to participate in court proceedings and outlines best practices. (Article originally published in the November 2011 Judges' Page newsletter)
  • Child Involvement in Court Benefits Everyone: Leslie Starr Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of California, offers the perspective of an attorney representing children and explains that child participation offers a sense of connectedness to the decisions and decision makers and ultimately increases the child’s satisfaction with the court process.
  • Developing Trauma-Informed Approaches to Children in Courts: Psychologist Joy D. Osofsky, PhD, notes that judges, lawyers, GAL attorneys, CASA volunteers and others involved in the dependency court process need to understand the impact of trauma on children and youth. She explains that trauma-informed assessments and services can be effective in helping children cope and recover.
  • Rationale and Methods for Preparing Children for Success in the Courtroom: The National Children’s Advocacy Center offers advice on supporting and preparing children to participate in the court process.
  • Working Effectively with Youth in Court, a excerpt from the National CASA Fostering Futures: Supporting Youth Transitions into Adulthood curriculum,offers guidance for determining when and how to involve youth in court.
  • Ensuring That Youth Are Heard in Court: A CASA Program’s Perspective: Angie Pitre, Capital CASA Association program manager from Baton Rouge, LA, recounts the historic role of the CASA volunteer in supporting youth attendance and participation in dependency court hearings.
  • Web Resources: Julianna L. Ormsby of the NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department has compiled a listing of additional organizations and resources including contact information that will be valuable to those interested in more information on the topic of children and youth participating in dependency court proceedings.
  • At its annual conference in June, Judge Joyce Williams Warren was named National CASA Judge of the Year. Read a short article about Judge Warren. 
  • Developing Resources Regarding Judicial Ethics and Judicial Leadership: Your Input Needed! Help guide our future newsletter content on the important issue of judicial ethics by responding to a one-question survey: What are your primary questions or concerns about the relationship between your program and your judges that involve judicial ethics implications? Examples could include fundraising, training, accepting awards, acting as spokespeople. Please take a moment to respond by clicking on this link.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ Permanency Planning for Children Department (PPCD) took the lead on securing articles for this issue and our thanks go to Elizabeth Whitney Barnes, JD, assistant director of PPCD, and Julianna Ormsby, MSW, for their hard work and support in the development of this issue of The Judges’ Page. Our thanks also go to Nancy Miller, former Director of PPCD. Nancy has made enormous contributions to The Judges’ Page during her tenure as director of PPCD and we will miss her feedback and future contributions as she transitions into her new position as NCJFCJ director of policy and government affairs.

 

The comments of article authors do not necessarily reflect the policies of the National CASA Association or the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

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