Children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and are widely held as needing greater care and protection. However, despite this, children are frequently victims of or witnesses to violence, abuse, and other crimes, including domestic violence, community violence, physical assault, sexual assault, commercial sexual exploitation, and child maltreatment.
Resulting from these high rates of exposure to violence, crime, and abuse, children are often required to encounter and navigate the criminal justice and child welfare systems. These systems are commonly regarded as intimidating, confusing, and overwhelming for adults, let alone for children, whose system involvement may exacerbate their trauma and distress (particularly since they often do not receive child-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally relevant advocacy and support throughout their justice and child welfare system involvement.)
OVC funded the Center for Court Innovation’s Child Witness Materials Development Project to address these systemic gaps through the creation of a package of interactive support materials for children ages 2–18 years old that inform and support them as they navigate the criminal justice and child welfare systems.
These materials have been developed for three different age groups (ages 2–6, ages 7–12, and ages 13–18), and utilize illustrated narratives featuring child and youth characters to explain how the justice and child welfare systems work in a child-friendly and developmentally appropriate way.
The materials focus on normalizing and validating children's feelings and experiences, teaching healthy coping and resilience-building skills, explaining the roles of the many justice system and child welfare practitioners with whom children may interact, providing tips for testifying, and informing children of their rights as a crime victim and/or witness.
It is envisioned that parents and caregivers, as well as justice system practitioners such as law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, child welfare workers, and mental health professionals, will use these materials to facilitate effective and trauma-informed support for child victims and witnesses involved in criminal and child welfare cases in various justice system settings. Companion practitioner and parent/caregiver guides are also available.