New Trauma Checklist for Lawyers and Legal Advocates

Court youth toolkit

By Lisa Conradi

According to the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence, most of our society’s children are exposed to violence and trauma in their daily lives. Each year, millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. Researchers have labeled children who have experienced seven or more types of victimization as “polyvictims.” For many of these children, this exposure can have both short- and long-term effects. Short-term effects include difficulty regulating emotions, challenges in cognitive development, behavior problems and attachment difficulties. Long-term effects include a higher likelihood of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer (Felitti et al., 1998).

In order to address this critical need, multiple efforts are underway to increase awareness, early identification, and intervention efforts related to children’s exposure to violence and trauma. One of the critical areas in need of training on the impact of violence on children is the legal system. Recently, the Safe Start Center, the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, and Child & Family Policy Associates developed the “Polyvictimization and Trauma Identification Checklist and Resource Guide” (Checklist). This Checklist was designed to help lawyers and other legal advocates for children recognize the prevalence and impact of polyvictimization and perform more trauma-informed legal and judicial system advocacy. The Checklist, along with the Flowchart on Trauma-Informed Actions (Flowchart), can be used by children’s attorneys, juvenile defenders, court-appointed special advocates, and other advocates in both the dependency (child welfare) and delinquency (juvenile justice) systems.

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