The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) works to assist child victims by providing quality training and technical assistance to prosecutors involved in child abuse and welfare cases.
Cases involving the physical or sexual abuse of children are among the most difficult to prosecute. In addition to not wanting to retraumatize the child, several factors—such as difficulty eliciting testimony from young victims, a lack of forensic or corroborative evidence due to delayed disclosure, and the quality of the investigative child interview—affect a prosecutor's decision to move forward with the case and the case outcome. OJJDP's specialized training and technical assistance helps prosecutors overcome such obstacles.
Youth-involved crime has serious implications for youth and communities. Prosecutors must make thoughtful, research-informed decisions to protect the public and offer youth opportunities for rehabilitation. They must also contend with challenges specific to juvenile court. Evolving victim rights laws, transfer to adult criminal court, and expanded juvenile court jurisdiction are some of the complex issues that juvenile prosecutors face.
OJJDP’s robust training curriculum helps prosecutors successfully balance youth justice with public safety.
Training and Technical Assistance
Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel
This program works to improve the judicial system's handling of child abuse, neglect and related cases, including those involving children who have been affected by opioid abuse or substance abuse. The program includes emphasis on the courts' role to address reasonable efforts to avoid unnecessary and prolonged foster care placement. In fiscal year (FY) 2021, OJJDP awarded more than $3.1 million to support this training program.
Training and Technical Assistance for Child Abuse Prosecutors Program
This program aims to improve trainees' interactions with child victims, their child-interviewing techniques and investigative methods, and presentation of evidence in court. It also emphasizes interagency coordination. In FY 2021, the program supported 81 trainings on child abuse prosecution. More than 9,500 people attended the trainings.
Addressing the Training Needs of Juvenile Prosecutors
Funding through this program helps states develop or expand training for juvenile prosecutors and their support staff. The program promotes training in trial techniques, procedural law, assessing risk and protective factors for youth, and determining youths' readiness for rehabilitation.
OJJDP also funds a national training and technical assistance provider to help prosecutors lead juvenile justice systems improvements within their communities. The training teaches prosecutors how to design and implement proven strategies to reduce offending and improve youth outcomes. In FY 2021, the Office awarded $500,000 to support this program.
Between June and September 2020, the National District Attorneys Association held a series of OJJDP-sponsored webinars for juvenile prosecutors. The Role of the Juvenile Prosecutor provided a historical context to juvenile court, highlighted the ethical obligations juvenile prosecutors have toward victims and offenders, and explained the rehabilitative nature of juvenile programming.
Additional webinars included Principles of Child and Adolescent Development, Building Relationships Between Communities and Police: What Prosecutors Need to Know, and Substance Use Issues in Juvenile Court. More than 1,500 participants were trained through the webinar series.
Between FY 2017 and 2021, OJJDP provided more than $14.4 million to build the capacity of juvenile prosecutors and attorneys who prosecute child welfare cases.
- Fiscal Year 2021—$3.6 million
- Fiscal Year 2020—$4.3 million
- Fiscal Year 2019—$3.9 million
- Fiscal Year 2018—$1.9 million
- Fiscal Year 2017—$750,000
From the Field
OJJDP sponsored a 2-day training institute for juvenile prosecutors and law enforcement personnel in June 2022. Presenters highlighted prosecutors' roles in facilitating positive police-youth engagement and in collaborating with community-based service providers to improve outcomes for youth and families.
A deputy district attorney from Alabama shared that the training made them "more aware of the role I have in the system and the importance of using that to the best of my ability."
Additional training topics included child and adolescent development, prosecuting serious and violent offenses, and gang-reduction strategies. A session on how trauma impacts cognitive and emotional development and decision making provided a deputy county attorney from Nebraska with an "alternative perspective on how adverse childhood experiences and resiliency are closely tied into juvenile prosecution work."
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Support for Prosecutors Who Work With Youth Updated July 2022
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Children's Advocacy Centers Updated 7/19/22
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Drug Courts Updated 4/1/22
- Drug Courts Updated July 2022
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Improving Youth Defense Updated 7/11/22
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Youth Reentry and Family Engagement Updated 4/13/22
- Raising the Bar on Juvenile Reentry: What Young People Say They Need
- Defending the Forensic Interview in Court: The Importance of Preparing with Your Prosecutor
- He Said, She Said, We Looked: How to Find Corroborating Evidence
- An Overview of Special Education Considerations: What Juvenile Court Prosecutors Need to Know
- Talking to Child Victims for Prosecutors
OJJDP and OJJDP-Sponsored Publications:
- The Decline in Arrests of Juveniles Continued Through 2019
- Expunging Juvenile Records: Myths, Collateral Consequences, and Emerging Practices
- Juvenile Court Statistics, 2019
- Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Diversion from Formal Juvenile Court Processing
- Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Indigent Defense for Juveniles
- Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Intersection of Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems
- Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Restorative Justice for Juveniles
- Stakeholder's Corner: Addressing the Training Needs of Juvenile Prosecutors
Statistical Briefing Book: