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Best Practices for Interviewing Court Involved Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Course Description:
The current state-wide stay-at-home order due to Covid-19 has limited the Illinois child welfare system’s regular practice of in-person contact with court-involved children to ensure their safety and well-being. In addition, more young people who enter the justice system are sentenced to this form of community supervision than any other outcome. Due to the global pandemic juvenile probation departments and guardians ad litem have had to respond with quick and common-sense action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and meet the mandates of the court and demands for public safety.

Even as courts and offices begin to expand their capacity, we likely will not be able to immediately and fully resume our previous practices of direct contact. Yet court-involved children may be even more vulnerable and in need of monitoring during this public health crisis. Checking in on the wellness of these adolescents/young adults and families is imperative and is in line with our mission for public safety.

This webinar will provide guidance on talking to this population of children – who already have histories of prior trauma – during this time of increased stress and isolation. The discussion will focus on important topics of questioning as well as guidelines for observing behavior when using available technology, with the aim of eliciting information to continue to protect court-involved children, collaborative case-planning approach which values youth voices and family connections, and its use of short-term, manageable goals and recognizes that youth are still developing a capacity for enhanced decision making and self-efficacy skills.

Learning Objectives:
As a result of this course, participants will be able to:
1.Identify current challenges to interviewing court-involved children, and adapt interviewing skills to available technology.
2.Employ effective interviewing skills to talk with court-involved children, including assessing the child’s developmental level as the key to a successful interview.
3.Understand how court-involved children’s trauma history and current experience of the Covid-19 public health crisis impact their ability to effectively communicate.
4.Identify important topics on which to focus observation and questioning to best monitor and protect court-involved children during this unprecedented time.
5.Participants will learn how the relationship or therapeutic alliance between the probation officer and the young person is essential to the behavior change process.