Ask a Mentor: Guardians and Children in Court

Volunteer Question

I have carefully read the new rules for children in court and I have talked to my volunteer supervisor about my responsibility for determining whether it is in the best interest of a particular child to come to court.

I know that the decision to support a child who does not want to come to court must be made in consultation with the volunteer supervisor and attorney. I also realize that most of the time children will come.

What do you do about staying with the children until their case is called?

Mentor Answer

This requires your good judgment about the circumstances surrounding the case and the circumstances of that particular hearing.

For example, if the children have become comfortable being with you and are not especially close to the transporter who brought them to court, it would probably be wise to stay with the children whether inside or outside the courtroom.

In another situation, the children may be seeing their parents from whom they have been removed and are eager to visit with them until their case is called. If the dependency case manager or caregiver is staying outside to supervise, then you may want to go in the courtroom to monitor progress of the docket. Periodically you could go back outside to let the parties know how things stand.

In still a different situation, your case might involve a teenager who is very comfortable with the transporter and who has not yet become comfortable with you. The wait for the case to be called might work better for the teenager if you stayed only part of the time. If the wait is inside the courtroom, your decision might be different. Variations are extensive and you will have to be ready to adapt.

Remember you can always consult with your volunteer supervisor if you are not sure what is wise. However, you will always want to check to see if the children are present and speak to the parties. There may be questions they have of you—or that you have for them. If someone is missing, then find out the reason why.

In other words, feel comfortable about things before your case is called. If you are uncertain about what to do, a good rule is to opt for staying with the children.

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