Child Witness Support Program
Launched in January of 2004, the Child and Adolescent Witness Support Program provides mental health support and referrals to children and adolescents exposed to violent crime in the Bronx. The participants in the program are young people, ages 3-15 years, who have been a witness to or victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or homicide. The Child and Adolescent Witness Support Program aims to promote the healthy development of children and adolescents by assisting them in overcoming the negative impact of their traumatic experiences, and by enhancing the criminal justice system’s ability to respond to their mental health needs. The program provides young crime victims with support, on-site trauma-focused therapy, and referrals to specialized mental health providers in their community.
How It Works
Support: The Child and Adolescent Witness Support Program provides support to a young person through the investigative, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial phases of the criminal prosecution. Each phase of the legal process can lead to mental distress for the young crime victim; this is particularly true if he or she is called upon to testify, or if a legal decision is perceived by the youth as unjust. The program therapist assists the young crime victim in enhancing his or her ability to cope with these difficult legal consequences of the crime.
On-site trauma-focused therapy: Exposure to a violent crime can have a devastating impact on the physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional functioning of a young person. Therapy can mitigate this impact by assisting the youth in processing the meaning of the event to their lives, while strengthening their coping skills and sources of support. Verbal dialogue, art making, music, movement, play, and story telling are used to guide the youth toward healing. The Child and Adolescent Witness Support Program provides crisis intervention and long-term therapy in individual, parent-child, sibling and family modalities.
Referrals: The Child and Adolescent Witness Support Program links children, adolescents, and their families to specialized treatment agencies in their communities. Receiving services from providers that specialize in treatment needs such as substance abuse, lesbian and gay issues, teen pregnancy, or psychiatric disorders, often make a significant difference in a young person’s ability to overcome a traumatic crime.
The Center for Court Innovation is grateful for space provided by the District Attorney’s Office of Bronx County.