C. Talking with Children and Youth in Court

Children and youth involved in the child welfare system can often feel disconnected from what is occurring around them. By speaking with youth directly and involving them in the process, they are given the opportunity to share their feelings, desires, and needs. Talking with children requires some skill; below are some questions that can help get the conversation started. Sharing some of your own answers to the questions can create a more natural conversation and help the youth feel more comfortable and willing to share honestly. Acknowledging some of their answers in the moment and later will also let them know you are hearing them. For a full example by age group, consult the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children's document “Tools for Engaging Children in Their Court Proceedings.”[205]

•   Initial Questions

◦   Make introductions.

◦   Did I pronounce your name correctly?

◦   Do you know who everyone is here?

◦   How old are you?

◦   Tell me about something that has happened to you since I last saw you.

◦   Tell me about something that you did recently that you are proud of.

•   School

◦   What is your favorite subject?

◦   Are there any subjects where you would like to have additional help? (older youth)

◦   Have you changed schools during the school year? When was the last time?

◦   What would help you do better in school?

◦   Have you started to think about college or vocational school? (older youth)

•   Friends

◦   What do you do for fun?

◦   Who do you do that with?

•   Family

◦   When was your last visit with your family?

◦   What did you do at your last visit with your siblings? When was that?

◦   What kind of chores do you have?

•   Health

◦   Have you been to the doctor since I last saw you? The dentist?

◦   Who would you talk to about health issues?

•   Feelings

◦   What makes you feel happy?

◦   What worries you the most?

◦   When you think about the future, what are you most concerned about? What are you most excited about?

•   Wrap-up Questions

◦   Did anyone use any words you didn't understand today?

◦   Did you want to tell me anything? Do you want to talk with me separately?

◦   Do you have any questions for me or for anyone else here?

Making notes on the conversation with the child or youth may be beneficial so that when they return for their next conference, any concerns can be readdressed. Following up on small details can also help create a more trusting relationship with the child or youth.