B. Child and Youth Engagement

Making court a good experience for children and youth is critical. Judges can help make the experience for everyone feel more beneficial by utilizing the following practices and setting expectations for the courtroom:

•   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.

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

•   Employ video conferencing as a convenient alternative for children, youth, and their caregivers.

•   Invite youth to submit letters or other information to the court.

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.[264]

To hear examples from former youth in care about their different experiences attending permanency hearings watch a replay of the 2021 Judicial Trauma Institute session Learning from the Experts: A Panel Discussion on Lived Experience.[265]