Work begins to make courthouse less intimidating for children

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:


CHARLOTTE - Changes are underway at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse just for kids.
Eyewitness News learned how a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office and a nonprofit will make the courthouse less intimidating for kids who have to testify.
Witness waiting rooms are where people are prepared for trial, but a week one of those rooms at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse will be get a makeover.
And it's all for children testifying as victims or witnesses at the courthouse.
"They need a place to be that's comfortable, child friendly, and isn't scary," said Kris Taylor, Pat's Place director of victim services.
As part of Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month the DA's office partnered with Pat's Place Child Advocacy Center to create a children's witness waiting room.

The furniture will be replaced with bean bags, a mural will be painted on the walls and the room will be filled with toys, coloring books, movies, games and more. 
It comes after prosecutors say they realized the toll court proceedings have on children.
"That really leads to more anxiety about the trial itself, if they have nothing to keep them busy." said Kelly Stetzer, assistant district attorney.
The purpose of the room is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for children
"Often times children are in a situation where they're looking face to face with the person who may have harmed them," said Taylor.
The children are supervised by a Pat's Place Therapist, and when it comes to trials there is no time limit.
This year the nonprofit will work with more than 550 kids.
"It can take hours even sometimes days to reach their turn to testify and we have children as young as 5," said Stetzer.
For now only one waiting room will be renovated but we're told others could be added depending on the need.

The DA's office and Pat's Place  are asking for donations of book, movies, toys,  or other fun activities to help children pass the time while waiting for trial.  Click here or here for more information.