Master List of
New Directions Recommendations
Directions from the Field:
Rights and Services for the 21st Century
for Child Victims
The recommendations below, which
appear in the May 1998 New Directions Report, have been reformatted
for replication and distribution.
|Victimization is a serious threat to America's children and youth. Each year in our country, hundreds of children write to the President, First Lady, and the Attorney General about being abused. They ask to be protected. They ask for police officers and judges to intervene. They harbor hope that somebody who is "in charge" will help. Numerous State and Federal laws now exist to protect children from physical and sexual abuse, and to provide an array of rights and services for child victims who participate in the criminal or juvenile justice process. More can be done, however, to protect the rights and improve the treatment of child victims. Therefore, to address the need for increased victim services and rights for our Nation's children who are touched by crime, the following recommendations are set forth by the field:
- Communities should establish
children's advocacy centers to provide child-friendly locations where
abused children can receive the services they need to heal and information
for the evaluation and investigation of their cases. To ensure the highest
quality of intervention, training should be provided to professionals
on conducting forensic interviews, to medical professionals on conducting
child abuse examinations, and to mental health professionals on employing
abuse-specific treatment approaches.
- Children who witness violence
should be provided the same level of victim assistance and special protections
within the criminal and juvenile justice systems as child victims.
- To ensure child abuse cases
are recognized and reported as early as possible, training on the identification
and signs of abuse, as well as the impact of child victimization, should
be provided to all professionals who come into contact with child victims.
- There should be an improved
governmental response to the problem of missing, abducted, and sexually
- All jurisdictions should establish
or support court school programs to help educate child victims and witnesses
about the court process and their role within it.
- States should enact legislation
to open access to criminal history records, and they should adopt regulations
and policies necessary to meet the requirements of the National Child
- The Federal Government should
examine data collection regarding child victimization to ensure that
all crimes against children, from their birth through the age of majority,
are uniformly reported, categorized (by age of the child, type of crime,
and offender relationship to the child), and analyzed at the State and
- All States should authorize
judges to exclude from the courtroom persons who are not necessary to
child-related court proceedings if requested by the victim or the victim's
representative or if the court determines that there would be substantial
psychological harm if the child were to testify in open court.
- State laws should be reviewed
and amended where necessary to protect the privacy of child victim records
including audio- and videotaped interviews.
- All States and the Federal Government
should enact or amend child hearsay rules to govern the admission into
evidence of reliable statements made by children under 16 years of age
to an adult concerning acts of physical and sexual abuse.
- Additional court procedures
should be implemented to assist in the prosecution of child victimization
- Courts and prosecutors need
to be provided uniform guidance on establishing competency when a child's
capacity to testify is challenged.
- All States should enact statutes
requiring speedy criminal trials and civil child protection adjudications
for child victims. In addition, all court cases involving child victims,
including criminal, juvenile, domestic violence, and domestic relations,
should implement speedy trial and appellate provisions and utilize child
victim court dockets. In every case involving a child victim, judges
should weigh the adverse effect of continuances and delays.
- All States should consider alternatives
to live in-court testimony for children under the age of 18.
- Specially trained lawyers and
court-appointed special advocates should be provided to children in
all civil child protection and other abuse-related proceedings.
- Early intervention programs
such as Head Start and Healthy Start programs should be implemented
nationwide. The staff of these programs must be trained to recognize
the signs of child abuse, how to report abuse to appropriate authorities,
and how to provide referrals for victims and their families.
- Child-serving institutions such
as schools, social service, and law enforcement agencies should make
diligent efforts to identify troubled youth and refer them to social
service or victim assistance programs before they run away from home.
Efforts also should be undertaken to identify and assist runaway, thrown-away,
and homeless child victims.
- Child abuse prevention programs
that address computer exploitation should be developed and publicized.
- Federal and State governments
should support the significant additional research that is needed to
document effective treatments for child victims, especially victims
of child sexual and physical abuse and children who witness violence.
- Convictions and substantiated
allegations of spousal or child abuse should create a rebuttable presumption
against awarding temporary or permanent custody to an offending parent.
Parents convicted of child or spousal abuse should not be granted the
right to visitation without independent supervision.
- States should include driving
while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs with children in
the vehicle as a form of child endangerment. Such drivers should receive
enhanced sanctions when criminally convicted, and evidence of driving
under the influence should be considered by family and juvenile courts
when determining custody and visitation rights in cases affecting the
- Health insurance providers,
particularly managed care providers, should ensure that their practices
facilitate immediate, specialized assistance for child victims and witnesses
of crime. Managed care providers should join multidisciplinary children's
advocacy centers or teams and should authorize payments for out-of-plan
examinations by specialists in the treatment of child abuse without
|New Directions from the
Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century