Sarasota-FAWL provides a safe haven for children.

PositionFlorida Association for Women Lawyers

Going to court can be a frightening experience even for adults who understand the integral role courts play in America's justice system.

Can you imagine how a child feels?

The fear intensifies in a place that can be cold, large, and very intimidating, particularly for young people involved in family law cases related to custody or child abuse in dependency actions. Such cases may warrant a child testifying against a parent or guardian.

Members of the Sarasota Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers recognized the uneasy feeling children experience in the traditionally adversarial environment. With generous donations from the Junior League of Sarasota County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc., and Walt Smith, the 12th Circuit court administrator, and other contributors, Sarasota-FAWL created a child-friendly room in the Sarasota County Judicial Center that is equipped with televisions, toys, books, and video games.

Debra Salisbury, Sarasota-FAWL member and past president, spearheaded the effort to raise funds to decorate, furnish, and equip the room. As an attorney who practices family law and dependency defense, she has seen first hand the impact court proceedings have on young children.

"When children walk in, their faces light up. A lot of love went into creating this room," Salisbury said. "It's a gorgeous room which protects children from the realities of the courtroom, and we have a better opportunity to obtain accurate testimony in a child-friendly atmosphere."

Located on the third floor of the judicial center, the room allows a child to give testimony outside the courtroom.

The room is equipped with two televisions--one closed circuit television that is linked to the juvenile courtroom and used for viewing movies and the other for playing video games. When in use, the judge and attorneys appear on the television in the room; the child sits at the table that has a microphone on it. A video camera is hidden in the ceiling to record and replay the child's testimony back in the courtroom. A child advocate is usually...

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