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Children's Participation in Foster Care Hearings

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 35 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2011 Pages: 267-272
Vicky Weisz; Twila Wingrove; Sarah J. Beal; April Faith-Slaker
Date Published
April 2011
6 pages
This study examined whether children's participation in dependency court hearing is harmful or beneficial to them, whether judicial behavior with the child in the courtroom is related to potential harms or benefits, and whether there are age differences in children's reactions.
The study found that children who attended their hearing reported more positive feelings about the dependency process in which they were involved. Their reactions included trust in the judge, perceived fairness in the process, and more comfort with their guardians ad litem and caseworkers compared with children who did not attend their hearings. For those children who attended their hearings, there was no evidence of high distress immediately preceding or following their hearings. Court observations revealed that more active engagement by judges was related to positive responses from the children. Most children, including both those who did and did not attend their hearings, believed that all children should be able to attend their hearings. The study measured children's reaction to attending dependency review hearings (n=43) and compared them to a sample of children who did not attend their hearings (n=50). One to 2 weeks following review hearings, both groups of children were interviewed about their reactions to the court process. The study is limited by its focus on a single juvenile court jurisdiction and the small sample size. Future studies should include multiple jurisdictions with larger samples of judges and children. The study was further limited by the unavoidable non-randomization of the attendee and non-attendee groups. A further limitation is that the measures used have not been tested and shown to be valid and reliable indicators of children' perception and understanding of the court process. It would advance the field if researchers were to create and standardize measures of this kind. 1 table and 15 references