Skip to main content

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.


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 include:

· 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.

· Child Death Investigation Protocol Training: The State Child Fatality Review Team under the direction of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office identified a need for improved collaboration surrounding child death investigations, DCJS had a protocol developed to be used by law enforcement and child protective service investigators across the Commonwealth. The protocol calls for a uniform, collaborative response to child death investigations in Virginia.

Since then, DCJS has worked with key partners to train and disseminate the protocol to law enforcement and child protective services investigators in the Commonwealth. DCJS is seeking to continue to train law enforcement and child protective services investigators, and other key members of multidisciplinary teams (MDT) in Virginia and has developed an opportunity to train a cadre of teams of volunteer trainers. These trainers will provide training throughout the Commonwealth beginning in April 2023.

· Elevating MDTs in Virginia: Training and technical assistance for local and regional MDTs will begin (virtually) in March 2023 with support from the MDT Stakeholder Group. . The Virginia MDT Stakeholder Group is a collaborative partnership between Virginia Department Criminal Justice Services; CACs of Virginia; Virginia Department of Social

Services; Commonwealth Attorney Services Council and is committed to strengthening and sustaining MDTs throughout the state. We believe that training, resources, and support targeted at MDTs at key points along their developmental pathway have the greatest potential to cultivate effective teams who are best equipped to help children and families impacted by abuse.

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.

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: · § 18.2-67.9 · § 63.2-1521 · § 16.1-252 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.

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

Contact Information

For additional information on the Children's Justice Act Program in Virginia, e-mail Jenna Foster