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Video gives judges an insider's view of court from children in foster care

Madison, Wisconsin - October 22, 2012

The Wisconsin Children's Court Improvement Program in conjunction with the Department of Children and Families has produced an unscripted video in which 10 young adults who were placed in foster care as children candidly reflect on experiences they had in court.

The result is Children in Court: In Their Own Words, an eight-minute training video for judges featuring straight talk from the people most directly affected by court decisions involving placement in out-of-home care.

"This innovative video provides insight for the judges from the very children they are to help. The children in the foster care system depend on us when all else has failed, and they deserve our utmost attention, care and help," said Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.

The video is intended to help judges better understand the needs and feelings of children involved in the process and that the decisions made at permanency hearings are crucial to achieving safe and timely permanence for children placed outside of their homes.

The young adults in the video reported that being in court was sometimes intimidating, or even scary; they often did not feel invited to be a part of the court process. They encourage judges to communicate more directly with children and to involve children more in the decision-making process. Sometimes lawyers answered questions that could have been better answered directly by the children involved in the process.

"I feel that when people say it's traumatic or stressful for youth to go to their own court proceedings, I would say they are incorrect. They (children) want to be involved in planning their future, and they want to make sure that everybody has their best interests in mind," said Aaron, who is featured in the video.

Video production was funded by a grant from Casey Family Programs, the nation's largest operating foundation focused entirely on safely reducing the number of children in foster care and improving the lives of those children who remain in the child welfare system.  The foundation, established by United Parcel Service founder Jim Casey, is based in Seattle.

The Children's Court Improvement Program is funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Director of State Courts Office.  The purpose of the program is for courts to assess and improve the handling of proceedings related to foster care and adoption, and engage the entire family in court processes related to child welfare.

"The Children's Court Improvement Program is a prime example of state trial judges working with state staff, using federal funding to protect children and families," Abrahamson said.

The video, which has been shown to judges, court staff and others involved in the child welfare system at training sessions statewide, is available for public viewing on the Children's Court Improvement Program website.

Michelle Jensen Goodwin
Children's Court Improvement Program Director
(608) 266-1557

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