DCS creates unit to protect child victims' rights
PHOENIX (May 15, 2018) –
When children are victims of crime, their voices often become lost in the legal process.
But children, like adults, are entitled to specific rights.
That is why the Department of Child Safety has become the first child welfare agency in the nation to develop a specialized unit to safeguard victims’ rights for children.
The newly-formed Victim Services Unit is designed to ensure children’s rights are protected when they are the victims of a crime. That means unit members will work closely with DCS case managers, law enforcement agencies and county attorney offices to secure children’s rights as a criminal case progresses through the system.
The unit will advocate for specific rights for crime victims including the right to have their voice heard in court, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to refuse an interview or deposition with the accused and the accused’s defense counsel.
If a child requires additional legal representation in a criminal case, Arizona Voice for Crime Victims will provide a pro bono attorney to the child thanks to a first-of-its-kind agreement between DCS and the non-profit agency.
DCS Director Greg McKay spearheaded this effort after he recognized that many children in foster care were victims in ongoing criminal cases, yet they lacked proper advocacy to guide them through the criminal process.
“DCS is the temporary legal guardian of children in foster care, therefore, we need to fight for them like they are our own children,” said DCS Director Greg McKay. “No longer will kids who are victims of crime be underserved while navigating the foster care system. We owe them a strong voice.”
DCS was able to form the unit after receiving a $2 million federal grant.
“Every child deserves a life free from violence and neglect,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “But for those children who are victims of a crime, it is our responsibility as public servants to fiercely defend their fundamental rights and protect them from further harm."
DCS is currently staffing the unit and expects it to be complete by the middle of summer.