Children's Justice Act (CJA)

The Children’s Justice Act (CJA) as set out in Section 107 of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is a federal grant for states to develop, establish, and operate programs designed to improve the child-protection system in four primary areas:

  1. The handling of child abuse and neglect cases, including cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation, in a manner which limits additional trauma to the child victim;
  2. The handling of cases of suspected child abuse and neglect related fatalities;
  3. The investigation and prosecution of cases of child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation; and
  4. The handling of cases involving children with disabilities or serious health-related problems who are the victims of abuse and neglect.

The Virginia CJA Program is designed to provide training and support to jurisdictions and professionals in Virginia to enhance the investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of child maltreatment.

Trainings

Since 1989, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has provided multidisciplinary trainings and conferences to help localities improve investigation, prosecution, and develop more effective skills and procedures for handling child abuse cases. Typically, the target audience for training includes commonwealth’s attorneys, law enforcement investigators, child protective service workers, medical, mental health and school professionals and other allied professionals. Trainings supported with CJA funding have included:

  • ChildFirst™ Virginia – ChildFirst™ Virginia forensic interviewing training is coordinated and presented by the Children's Advocacy Centers of Virginia (CACVA) and supported in part by the CJA grant. This five day course is intended for those who conduct forensic interviews in child abuse cases and defend the forensic interview in court. For more information on upcoming ChildFirst™ trainings please visit the CACVA website.
  • Improving Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse – This CJA sponsored conference typically is held annually to support training in current issues involving child maltreatment. The intended audience is law enforcement, child protective service workers, prosecutors, forensic interviewers, child advocates and other multidisciplinary team professionals responding to child abuse and neglect.
  • Trial Advocacy Program – CJA supports the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Services Council (CASC) in offering the annual, five day Trial Advocacy Program to newer prosecutors. The participants focus on the dynamics of prosecuting an abusive head trauma case. Check the CASC website for upcoming training.
  • Abuse and Neglect of Children with Disabilities – DCJS in partnership with the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education has supported the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University in developing and piloting a three part webinar series entitled Tipping the Scales in Their Favor: Your Role in Recognizing and Responding to Abuse and Neglect of Children with Disabilities.
  • Regional Child Fatality Review Teams in Virginia – Lessons Learned, Charting the Future – CJA in partnership with the Department of Social Services, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and State Child Fatality Review Team offers technical assistance to the five regional child fatality review teams and sponsored a conference in 2013.

 

Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Teams and Child Advocacy Centers

A multidisciplinary team (MDT) is a group of professionals with representation from law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, mental health, medical, victim advocacy and child advocacy center staff (if available) who work collaboratively from the point of report of abuse to assure the most effective coordinated response possible. Interagency collaboration and written protocols are critical for coordinating intervention to reduce potential trauma to children and families and improve services, while preserving and respecting the rights and obligations of each agency to pursue their respective mandates. A protocol is a written inter-agency agreement outlining the method for investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases in a particular locality. Written protocols are preferred because they: establish clear criteria for joint investigation and intervention, survive turnover, deter disagreement, and define and limit the role of each agency. Protocols can be very specific, including a step-by-step process. They can also be more general guidelines. Click here for some general components found in protocols with sample documents. The samples are provided as examples of what some teams have done and are not offered as "models." NO ONE MODEL WORKS FOR ALL LOCALITIES.

A Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-focused, facility-based program in which the MDT works together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases. Some localities in Virginia have MDTs, but not all have CACs. Children's Advocacy Centers of Virginia (CACVA) is the Official Virginia State Chapter of the National Children's Alliance, a national non-profit professional membership organization that supports and accredits children’s advocacy centers and support organizations. CACVA provides support to Virginia communities seeking to improve children services. The National Children’s Alliance provides CACs with Standards for Accredited Members. For more information on Children's Advocacy Centers, contact CACVA or the National Children's Alliance.

Resources

Child Abuse: Improving Investigation & Prosecution of Survey Report 2013
Fact Sheet: Child Abuse MDTs and Sexual Assault Response Teams
Child Witness Testimony in Court

Virginia, like a number of other states, has taken steps in recent years to reduce the trauma experienced by child crime victims when they must testify in court about what happened to them.  The Code of Virginia allows child victims in criminal or civil proceedings to testify from a room outside the courtroom via two-way, closed-circuit television.  For Virginia legislation concerning used of closed circuit testimony in court see the Code of Virginia:

For more information see Child Witness Testimony in Court: Protocol for Using Closed-Circuit Equipment, also view the Child Witness Testimony in Court: Using Closed-Circuit Equipment brochure.

Statistics regarding the use of closed-circuit television in Virginia’s Courts can be reviewed in Virginia’s Use of Closed Circuit Television With Child Victims and Witnesses: A Look Back 1988-2011.

Through a Child's Eyes: Innocence in the Courtroom

View the video, "Through a Child's Eyes: Innocence in the Courtroom.

 

Child Abuse Poster for Emergency Departments

This poster provides some guidance to assist emergency department professionals with questions regarding examination and testing protocols and identification of resources for responding to and reporting child abuse. The poster Guidelines for Evaluation of Children in the Emergency Department Setting was created by the Forensic Medical Workgroup, a collaborative effort among child abuse professionals in Virginia, comprised of physicians, nurses, social services, law enforcement and prosecutors working together to improve the State’s response to child abuse.

Report Child Abuse or Neglect

Reports of child abuse or neglect should be made to your local Department of Social Services during normal business hours, or you can report child abuse and neglect to the Virginia Department of Social Services 24-hour hotline 1-800-552-7096. For more information on Child Protective Services visit the Department of Social Services website.

Contact Information

For additional information on the Children's Justice Act Program in Virginia, e-mail Mary Wilson, or call 804.371.0534.