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Assessing Trauma for Juvenile and Family Courts: From Development to Implementation

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Stoffel; Adrea Korthase; Melissa Gueller
Date Published
24 pages
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) collaborated with affiliates from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to develop this trauma consultation protocol for juvenile and family court settings.
The information presented includes key findings developed by an analysis of 269 recommendations from 23 trauma consultations performed by the NCJFCJ staff in 18 states from 2013 through 2017. Findings focus on the need for consistent trauma screenings; the environment's role in traumatic stress reactions; and the prevalence of secondary traumatic stress in court personnel. This publication also contains a set of recommendations for courts to follow in becoming more trauma responsive to the youth and families they serve in resolving issues that involve traumatic events. The report concludes with a discussion of next steps the NCJFCJ can take to further trauma consultation work. The court trauma protocol focuses on specific types of cases that typically involve traumatic events. Such cases include abused and neglected children, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, and co-occurring child maltreatment and domestic violence. A major section of this publication addresses conceptual and operational frameworks for trauma consultations. The concluding recommendations for guiding juvenile and family courts in becoming more trauma-informed include creating a shared definition of trauma, prioritizing secondary traumatic stress, soliciting opinions of community members, discussing how to implement trauma screening into current practice, promoting a healing environment through positive interactions in the court, matching services to the unique needs of youths and families, providing separate waiting rooms, creating an environment conducive to limiting arousal, and implementing a policy that discourages shackling for juvenile offenders. The NCJFCJ indicates its readiness to provide technical assistance, training, and trauma consultations to any jurisdiction needing guidance in developing or improving a trauma protocol. 3 tables, 1 figure, and 18 references