Allegheny County Children’s Court Launches Videoconferencing Pilot Program

In an effort to reduce trauma to children testifying – as well as court costs – Allegheny County Family Court has created a videoconferencing pilot program for its Children’s Court.

Family Court Administrative Judge Kim Berkeley Clark and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato announced Monday the launch of the program. It’s being funded through a public-private partnership between Child Watch of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County Children’s Court, the county Department of Human Services and other local organizations.

“Our goal for this project is simple – to improve court proceedings and enhance participation in the court process, particularly for children who need to feel comfortable and safe,” Clark said in a statement. “With this project, we hope to minimize the pain of these proceedings for children.”

The program should expand the scope of participation outside of the justice and corrections systems to include all cases impacting children. That means videoconferences will be held at non-county sites like the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh – a partner of the new program, the court said.

The program will initially be available in eight sites, with the long-term goal to expand the technology to 36 sites, including 13 Children’s Court courtrooms, four regional courtrooms, five regional Children Youth & Families offices, two local hospitals and two jail/detention centers.

According to the court, the program will reduce trauma to children because they won’t have to physically testify in front of those who allegedly abused them. It will also increase efficiency in scheduling and improve the ability of incarcerated parents to participate in court proceedings.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

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