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Helping a Child be a Witness in Court: 101 Things to Know, Say and Do

NCJ Number
Alison Cunningham, M.A.; Lynda Stevens, M.Ed., R.S.W.,C.P.T.
Date Published
62 pages
This guide is an overview of essential information for professionals who are responsible for supporting a child who will be testifying in court, and it could also be used as a training tool for those entering the victim-support field or for victim-support workers who have only worked with adults.
Based on the view that each child is unique and deserves advocacy and support tailored to his/her individual needs, this publication offers principles that guide interventions, flexible tools for practice, and guidance on skill-building. Based on the authors experience in working with child witnesses, the guide presents their assumptions about child testimony, service principles, relevant research and its implications, the impact of trauma on court testimony, common testimony-related worries, and the components of pre-court preparation and day-of-court support. The guide's contents are presented in 10 segments important to providing support for child witnesses. Each of the 10 segments contains 10 components. One segment presents 10 assumptions about children as witnesses and preparing children for testimony. The second segment presents 10 principles for providing services to child witnesses, and the third segment consists of 10 "things we know about child witnesses." The fourth segment presents 10 key points about trauma and the child witness, followed by a fifth segment that outlines 10 steps in the court preparation and support process. The sixth segment proposes 10 accommodations to court procedures for child witnesses, followed by a segment with 10 components of pre-court preparation. The eighth segment contains 10 "things children may worry about," followed by two segments with 10 important concepts to explain and 10 components of court support. The guide concludes with a final thought, which advises that children want to be and can be good witnesses, but this requires an approach, language, and expectations that recognize their developmental stage.