B. Child and Youth Engagement

Making court a good experience is critical. Judges can help make the experience for everyone feel more beneficial by utilizing the following practices:

•   Ensure attorneys and caseworkers do their job by helping prepare the child for the hearing.

•   Learn child-specific interviewing techniques so that engaging the child in conversation is easier. Even young children have the competence to tell adults what they want and need when questioned in an age-appropriate manner. Making court a good experience is critical.

•   Restructure dockets, and schedule hearings involving children in the afternoon, after school.

•   Try using video conferencing or invite youth to submit personal written court reports.

Generally, every child should appear at every permanency hearing. The Family Code presumes that all children will attend their permanency hearings, but also accommodates the occasion when children should be excused from attending by the judge. The expectation is that the court will excuse a child on a case-by-case basis and not operate under a blanket order or rule.

For a more complete report on the benefits of youth in court and practical tips for accommodating their presence, please read the Children's Commission's July 2016 report on Youth Presence in Court Proceedings on the Children's Commission's website.[232]