This guide instructs prosecutors in the issues that must be addressed in their interactions with and accommodations for children with disabilities in various phases of the prosecution of cases of alleged child abuse.
This is a significant issue because 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. This circumstance requires that prosecutors managing these important cases be prepared to serve and advocate for child victims with distinctive physical, cognitive, and emotional needs throughout case processing. The case-processing phases addressed in this guide include the pretrial process, preparation of the child to testify, development of courtroom accommodations, expert witness and competency considerations, use of Individual Education Programs (IEPs), jury selection, and integration of case themes. The guide addresses each of these components of the prosecution of a child maltreatment case that involves a child with disabilities. Among the issues discussed are building rapport; determining the child’s specific disability; meeting with caregivers, teachers, and others; learning the child’s communication methods; courtroom accommodations; use of language; comfort items; and sequestration. Appended sample materials and case studies