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Coordination of Criminal and Juvenile Court Proceedings in Child Maltreatment Cases

NCJ Number
161835
Date Published
Author(s)
D Whitcomb, M Hardin
Agencies
NIJ-Sponsored
Annotation
National outrage over child abuse has encouraged the criminal prosecution of offenders, and many intrafamilial child maltreatment cases involve simultaneous criminal and civil proceedings, each initiated by different government entities and each pursuing different goals.
Abstract
Juvenile and criminal courts perform distinct functions in intrafamily abuse and neglect cases. Juvenile court proceedings are designed to protect the child and to rehabilitate the family when possible. Criminal proceedings are primarily intended to determine the guilt or innocence of the alleged perpetrator. Prosecutions in criminal courts seek to punish the alleged offender, while dependency proceedings in juvenile courts seek to protect the child from further abuse and preserve the family. Because uncoordinated court actions can be time-consuming and costly, several State and national organizations have attempted to overcome fragmentation and assist child victims through the adjudication process. One particular survey, conducted by the Education Development Center and the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, looked at problems in coordinating criminal and juvenile/family court proceedings in child abuse cases. Prosecutors and child protection attorneys were surveyed to determine the range of approaches being employed to balance the missions of criminal and juvenile courts. Survey findings revealed many challenges surrounding efforts to coordinate related proceedings in criminal and juvenile courts. Resulting recommendations focused on establishing good working relationships among court participants, developing a multidisciplinary advisory council and a multidisciplinary case coordination team, enacting legislation to coordinate criminal and juvenile court proceedings, and making judges aware of parallel proceedings in child abuse and neglect cases. Issues affecting the timing of criminal and juvenile court proceedings are explored, and legal barriers to the exchange of information between criminal and juvenile courts are identified. Appendixes include the survey instrument, a sample field interview guide, and a list of interview respondents. Endnotes and tables
Date Created: March 15, 2009