Child Witness Program
The Child Witness Program offers support to all children up to age 18 in Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County who have been victims or witnesses of crimes. Our services are based on the belief that going to court can be an anxious and difficult time for children and their families and with our support and preparation, they are better able to cope. The agency plays an integral role in balancing the needs of the justice system with the child’s right not to be subjected to further emotional trauma.
To meet the needs of our clients, we offer child friendly facilities close to the courthouse. These safe, comfortable, non-institutional spaces are used for meetings and waiting for court. We tailor our services to meet the accessibility and other needs of the child.
We offer services for:
- Any victim or witness
- Any type of crime
- Any child or youth under the age of 18
- Any child living in or attending court in Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County
Our services are available at no charge, with no wait list. Click on the boxes to learn more about the services we offer.
Referral to Child Witness ProgramReferrals most often come from the police, however they sometimes come from the court, other service providers, or directly from the client/family themselves. The process begins when the client/family signs a Child Witness Program Referral Form that gives Child Witness Program staff permission to contact them (verbal consent is also sufficient).
Court UpdatesAfter receiving the referral, an introduction letter is mailed to the client/family, than an introductory telephone call is made. Child Witness Centre Caseworkers introduce the services, and provide information about the complex procedures of the criminal justice system. As the case progresses through the justice system, caseworkers will provide information on the accused’s court appearances and answer any questions. Caseworkers assess the general and specific needs of each client/family. This case management approach may lead to referrals to other community services.
Court PreparationIf the matter is set for a preliminary hearing or trial, Caseworkers prepare the young witness to testify. We provide a child friendly atmosphere and a safe opportunity to learn about court procedures and discuss any fears or concerns. Caseworkers educate children and youth on the layout of court, roles of each person, rules, legal terminology, and the importance of taking an oath and telling the truth. At each court preparation session, the child or youth is assessed for the need for testimonial aids. These aids include Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), screens, microphones, etc., that assist the child in testifying in court. Caseworkers also arrange and attend meeting(s) with the Crown Attorney. During this meeting, the child/family has the opportunity to meet the Crown, discuss the case and review their evidence. Caseworkers can assist parents with advice on proper, appropriate support for their children. Sessions begin two to four weeks before a court date. The goal of these sessions is to empower children and youth for their court experience, allowing them to do their job in court.
Court Support and Court AccompanimentOur highly trained Caseworkers attend court for many reasons. Each child that is required to testify in court, is accompanied by the caseworker, and if needed, onto the witness stand. This it to provide emotional support, advocate on behalf of the child’s needs, and ensure the child is not alone. In many cases, parents are excluded because they are a witness and will also be testifying at a later time. Caseworkers are also present during the verdict and sentencing phase and provide ongoing support throughout the entire judicial process.
Explanation of the VerdictClients may need assistance in dealing with the verdict and understanding the outcome.
Victim Impact Statement (VIS)Clients may need assistance in dealing with the verdict and understanding the outcome.
After Court CareCaseworkers will assess the continuing needs of each child and will provide referrals to counselling agencies and information about other services available in the community (e.g. Victims Support Line, Criminal Injuries Compensation, etc.). Caseworkers will also provide copies of probation or sentence orders to the families.
The court process can be a confusing time for you and your family. Check out the educational resources available to families.
Answers to commonly asked questions about the Child Witness Program and the court process
To refer a child or youth to the Child Witness Centre, complete the Child Witness Program referral form.
Watch our video to get more of an inside view into the day of a life of a child.