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Jul 16, 2013 12:23 PM by Ryan Haarer

Juvenile court responds to trauma for better outcomes

TUCSON - Pima County Juvenile Court is just the second court in the country to become trauma responsive. They are doing a thorough review of the court process to recognize and limit trauma, hopefully reducing the number of kids returning to the center and reducing the number of kids in the welfare system.

"We know that in the child welfare cases, those children have pretty universally suffered some trauma or they wouldn't be with us," said Judge Karen Adam, spearheading the efforts in Pima County.

In a bulk of the cases that trauma is neglect by parents. But, Judge Adam is also seeing an uptick in physical abuse. It's all trauma she feels should be considered as these people work through the system at a young age.

"We want to make sure they are not so affected by what we are doing that they are not able to hear what we are saying in court, retain what's been said in court or discuss openly what it is that can help them in the way of services because when people shut down there is very little help that we can offer," Adam said.

Pima County Juvenile Court is working with national groups to do a comprehensive assessment of the system.

"That would include, starting in the parking lot and coming through the front door. seeing how things are in the lobby, what things are like in the courtroom, going back into detention, watching how folks deal with the information counter, the clerk's office, all the way through just to make sure that we are not doing something that would dramatically affect someone detrimentally so that they are not able to fully participate," Adam said.

It's a change Judge Adam and others at the court hope will reduce the number of cases filed in juvenile court every year, reducing strain on the community and the children.

"We know from the science that trauma has a dramatic effect, on not just only the short term consequences of a person's life but also the long term in terms of their future health. We know that childhood trauma can literally shorten an adult's life."

She says the number one goal of the court is always public safety meaning parents and youth alike will still be held accountable for their actions. But, she's hoping new methods will give probation officers the tools they need to provide much needed assistance.

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