Kids In Court
Funded by the Children’s Justice Act Program – Texas Center for the Judiciary, Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County implemented the Kids in Court (KIC) program in 2008. The KIC program works in collaboration with the Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. This relationship benefits the child victims and the families as Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County is better able to keep families informed of how their case is progressing through the criminal justice system. In the event that criminal charges are filed and will ultimately result in a criminal hearing, a CAC Family Advocate works with the child victim and non-offending caregivers to provide case updates, court education and court accompaniment.
All too often there are misconceptions associated with court for both children and adults. These misconceptions, if not addressed and corrected, can be fear-inducing and anxiety provoking. Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County offers court education as an opportunity to explain what court is, the importance of telling the truth and the roles of the individuals present in a typical court room.
Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County utilizes a court education curriculum in combination with the Kids in Court Manual (developed by the Center) to prepare young witnesses for the experience of providing testimony in a courtroom. The educational curriculum is presented through various activities and learning objectives which are hands-on and interactive. The number of court education sessions conducted with a child is determined on a case-by-case basis but generally is between two and five sessions.
Initially, a child witness is introduced to the setup of a typical courtroom through a wooden diorama depicting the various structures and personnel roles. At some point prior to a criminal hearing, a child may be offered a court room tour arranged through the Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
If a criminal case proceeds to a criminal hearing, the Family Advocate will accompany the child witness and family to court. Because this experience can be difficult for a family emotionally and physically, the Family Advocate works in collaboration with the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the Smith County Criminal District Attorney’s Office to provide support throughout the duration of the trial.