Prosecutors who handle cases involving children with disabilities must be prepared to serve and advocate for individual child victims' unique physical, cognitive, and/or emotional needs. This guide addresses each of these components of the prosecution and concludes with sample motions to implement recommendations.
Nearly 700,000 children experience abuse, maltreatment, or neglect each year, with the most common allegations being physical neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Because child abuse is vastly underreported, this figure is not entirely reflective of the scope of the issue. Of the children who experience child abuse and maltreatment, children with disabilities are affected at staggering rates despite being underrepresented in our child protection and judicial systems.
Children with disabilities are at least three times more likely to be abused or neglected than their peers without disabilities, and they are more likely to be seriously injured or harmed by maltreatment. At the same time, disabilities themselves are not monolithic and are often co-present. Accordingly, prosecutors who handle these important cases must be prepared to serve and advocate for individual child victims' unique physical, cognitive, and emotional needs. This obligation extends throughout the prosecution, including the pretrial process, preparation of the child to testify, development of courtroom accommodations, expert witness and competency considerations, utilization of individualized education programs, jury selection, and integration of case themes. This guide addresses each of these components of the prosecution and concludes with sample motions to implement recommendations.