Youth Services Law

Reading, Writing, and … Mindfulness?

Small girl meditating on grass

Two recently-published studies claim that mindfulness training can help children cope with stress in school. The first study was small, with only 99 middle-school children participating. Half of them received 8 weeks of mindfulness-based interventions, while the other half received active-control interventions.

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Mandated Reporting Age of Consent

Group of young teenagers

An incident from Vermont illustrates a not-uncommon conundrum for mandated reporters, deciding when to report sexual activity by minors above the age of consent. The pastor of a church learned of consensual sexual activity between a minor in the church and the church’s youth pastor. Because the girl was 16 year old, the age of consent in Vermont, the pastor’s lawyer initially told him that he did not need to report it.

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Mandated Reporter: Sexting Laws

Teenager sitting on bed texting

A recent court ruling continues the trend of insanity surrounding teenage sexting. A 16-year-old girl performed oral sex on a male friend, and one of them videoed it. The girl later sent the video to two friends by text message. When she later fell out with one of the friends, he showed the video to a school police officer. The prosecutor charged her with distributing child pornography, and Maryland’s highest appellate court recently affirmed the conviction.

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Questioning a Child: A Case Study

Upset child sitting on a couch in front of adult

A military court of appeals recently made headlines when it dismissed child abuse charges against a Marine colonel. The very thorough opinion provides a good case study in the difficulties of interviewing young children. In both my experience as a civil lawyer defending youth organizations and my past life as a criminal prosecutor, I have seen inadequate interviews so taint a child’s disclosure that it becomes impossible to know what actually happened.

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Resilience After Child Abuse

Mother and daughter hugging

One very important issue for youth-serving organizations is what factors help children recover from abuse or neglect. It is a complicated question, in part because children are at such varying developmental stages when they suffer maltreatment. A recent systematic review of several mental health studies offers possible factors that organizations can consider to help children overcome adverse experiences.

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Questioning Children: A New Study

A recent study adds more support to the evidence that asking children open-ended questions is the best way to obtain the information that they have. Researchers studied 83 children in Australia, from ages 7-12. They showed the children a short film, and then interviewed them twice, once by a person who asked only open questions and once by a person who asked only closed questions. A third interviewer then asked the children their thoughts about the interviews using a 10-point rating scale.

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Depositions of Children: How

Posted In Depositions

Small girl playing with toys

The next, and for many lawyers the most frightening, issue in deposing children is how to ask questions of children. Like many tasks, it is more frightening than difficult. Fortunately, many other people have faced this same problem, and many of them have written some very instructive manuals.

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Depositions of Children: Where, What, and Who

Posted In Depositions

Adults talking to a child in a child friendly setting

As I discussed in my last post, courts generally allow depositions of children who may have relevant information. That right is not boundless, however, and courts have the right to set conditions to reduce the stress and trauma to the child. Courts that have allowed depositions have either set the conditions themselves or required the parties to confer on various factors.

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Depositions of Children: When and Why

Posted In Depositions

One dilemma that lawyers confront is when and how to depose children. Sometimes, those children are the professed victims in litigation; other times they are fact witnesses. Quite often lawyers for the child’s family will resist a deposition, citing the potential for psychological trauma. Most courts that have considered the question have found a right to a deposition, tempered by the need to make accommodations for the child’s age, maturity, and potential for trauma.

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Team Sports Increase Resilience

Diverse teen sports team

A recent study of more than 9000 young adults examined whether team sports helped children overcome adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The researchers followed almost 10,000 teens for a decade, including almost 4900 teens exposed to ACEs and more than 4700 who were not. The study concluded that teens who participated in team sports had a 24 percent lower probability of receiving a depression diagnosis and 30 percent lower odds of receiving an anxiety diagnosis than those who did not participate.

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