August 31, 2020
Children are a party to their dependency court proceedings; courts are required to inquire if they are not present. Yet children are often not present when critical decisions about their lives are made in court. When children are not active participants, they may believe that their feelings and desires are not important to the decision makers. This can and does affect their behavior and sense of self-worth. When babies and nonverbal children are excluded from court, it deprives the judge and others of the ability to observe important interactions. In this session, Florida Youth SHINE members and judicial officers will discuss the importance of having children attend and participate in court. Youth will share their experiences and feelings about having a voice or being excluded from the process. Judges will address the benefits of youth presence and participation in the conduct of court proceedings.