programs have evolved in several communities over the past few years in
response to the growing number of court cases involving child
victim/witnesses. Typically, these cases include children involved in
allegations of physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, or children who
have witnessed a violent crime. As more of these cases are reported,
more investigations and filings in criminal and juvenile court follow.
This has compelled a more critical examination of how court systems deal
with children as victims and witnesses. The result has been an
acknowledgment of the systems shortcomings and the development of
programs to improve the criminal justice response.
One such innovation is the "court school" concept. This approach rests
on the belief that kids can learn to view the experience of going to
court in a more positive and less intimidating manner. When a child
learns something about the judicial process and gains some familiarity
with a courtroom, he or she is less likely to be frightened and more
likely to participate fully in the process. Hence, justice can be served
and the rights of all involved protected.
Tulare County Kids' Court is organized and operated by the Office of the
District Attorney in collaboration with several agencies and
interested persons to assist children through the judicial process by
familiarizing them with the court environment, personnel and process.
This educational process is accomplished by meeting the various
individuals connected with the court system who explain what they do and
respond to questions from both children and parents, all in a courtroom
setting. Professional Therapists along with trained volunteers interact
with the children and their caretakers to help them understand and
express their own feelings and deal with the stress associated with
"going to court." The goal is to strengthen children to cope with the
judicial process while affirming the responsibility to tell the truth.
In the past, child witnesses were prepared for the experience on an
individual basis. Kids' Court makes it possible to help children get
ready for court by participating in a supportive group experience. This
group serves as a powerful reminder that other children face similar
circumstances and will also testify in court.
Parents and caretakers are included in Kids' Court for they too
experience a wide range of emotions that are filled with questions.
Their support and understanding has significant impact on the ability of
a child to cope with court and to be healed. Parents will have the
opportunity to privately address any concerns or special needs.
information call (559) 636-5471.