NCTSN and NCCTS Participate in Special Trauma Issue of Juvenile and Family Court Journal

Members of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and staff of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS) have collaborated to produce a special issue of the Juvenile and Family Court Journal (Volume 59, No. 4, Fall 2008). This is the second special issue on trauma in which NCTSN/NCCTS professionals have authored or co-authored articles. The first such issue was published in Winter 2006.

The Juvenile and Family Court Journal is a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges that presents articles on topics related to the field of juvenile justice and family law. The target audience of this journal is judges and juvenile and family court personnel. Below are titles and abstracts of the featured articles. Visit the publisher's website information on accessing the issue.

Howard, M. L., & Tener, R. R. (2008). Children who have been traumatized: One court's response. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 21-34. A court that is trauma-informed can assist with the process of identifying children in need of trauma-focused services and can provide education and direction to families frustrated by prior treatment failures. The unique role of the juvenile court judge as a community convener offers an opportunity to increase community awareness about the impact of trauma, and to promote the adoption of evidence-based treatment for trauma victims. This article outlines the way that increased trauma awareness and trauma screening within a family court system mobilized the development of effective resources for children and families affected by trauma. 

Igelman, R. S., Ryan, B. E., Gilbert, A. M., Bashant, C., & North, K. (2008). Best practices for serving traumatized children and families. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 35-47. This paper highlights the traumatic impact of child abuse and neglect upon children and adolescents who are commonly seen in court systems. In addition to describing prevalence rates of trauma exposure and psychological reactions among traumatized children, it addresses the need for judges and court personnel to work with children and families in a manner that is sensitive to their traumatic experiences and emphasizes the need for these children to receive the very best evidence-based care available in order to help them more effectively cope and recover from trauma exposure. Cultural issues and model adaptations are covered in relation to the use of evidence-based practices with children from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Specific recommendations are given to help judges and court personnel become better informed about the use of evidence-based practices for treating child trauma, enabling them to respond more sensitively and appropriately in these cases.

Kletzka, N. T., & Siegfried, C. (2008). Helping children in the child welfare systems heal from trauma: A systems integration approach. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 7-20. Numerous organizations touch the lives of children and their families following incidents of maltreatment, including family/dependency courts, child welfare agencies, foster parent associations, foster care agencies or substitute care facilities, mental health agencies, and others. The way these organizations work together is critically important. They have the potential to promote child safety and reduce the harmful impact of maltreatment on children, but also, unfortunately, at times their actions may worsen the traumatic experience for children and their families. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network conducted a survey of 53 child-serving organizations in 10 states, to assess the ways the organizations gather and share trauma-related information and the basic training about child trauma their staffs receive. The goal was to determine how the various service systems, including the courts, communicate with each other about trauma and the extent to which, alone or in combination, they promote children's healing following traumatic events. The survey results point to a need to improve collaboration on issues associated with child maltreatment and trauma. Judges can be important leaders in bringing about necessary changes. Recommendations for judges and courts are included.

Maze, J., Van Tassell, R., Marsh, C., & Fransein, D. (2008). An overview of the special issue. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 3-5.

Olafson, E., & Kenniston, J. (2008). Obtaining information from children in the justice system. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 71-89. Even young children can provide accurate accounts of experienced events if adults question them skillfully. However, most justice system personnel receive little training in evidence-based methods to question children non-suggestively and with developmental sensitivity. This paper summarizes key research findings about child forensic interviewing. It concludes with recommendations for judges and other justice system personnel who must engage in age-appropriate consultation with children and outlines steps judges can take to establish evidence-based interviewing practices by court personnel in their jurisdictions.

Swisher, L. M., Silovsky, J. E., Stuart, R. H., & Pierce, K. (2008). Children with sexual behavior problems. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 59(4), 49-69. Judges are encountering more cases (both dependent and delinquent) involving juveniles under the age of 12 who have acted out sexually. The youth's own trauma history and protection issues often complicate the cases. This article reviews the research about treatment for children with sexual behavior problems (SBP) and discusses guidelines for making placement decisions in order to assist judges to determine an appropriate level of response in cases of children with SBP. To this end, information about typical sexual development with strategies for determining whether a sexual behavior is problematic or developmentally appropriate is provided. Children with SBP are contrasted with adolescent and adult sexual offenders. Assessment and treatment guidelines based on the current state of clinical research are provided, noting that a number of treatments have demonstrated efficacy with SBP in children. Information to facilitate decision making regarding residential placement, school participation, and family reunification is provided. Public policy should be based on scientific results and reflect the very low risk posed by children with SBP when making decisions about application of the Adam Walsh Act and national lifetime registries in general.