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Child Witness Project


Delivery Approach:
  • Individual
Delivery Format:
  • Hybrid
Provider Requirement:
  • Licensed/Certified Professional Led
Type of Experience Addressed:
  • Domestic Violence
  • Child Abuse 
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Community Violence
  • Neglect 
  • Homicide/Familicide 
  • Criminal Victimization 
  • Verbal/Emotional abuse
  • Mental Health Issues/Concerns
  • Hate Crimes
  • Historical trauma
  • Trafficking
Engagement Methods:
  • Talk-Based
  • Play-Based
  • Culturally-Grounded
Level of Intervention:
  • Primary Prevention
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Tertiary Prevention
  • Less than 12 weeks
  • Greater than 12 weeks
  • Mental Health Setting
  • Other Setting
    • Courthouse
Program Details:
Type of services:

Program to prepare and support child and teen witnesses to help them communicate evidence to the court without being traumatized by the challenging process of being a witness.

Program setting:

Most services are delivered in the courthouse

Type of provider:

Registered Social Workers/Social Service Workers

Length of program/number of sessions:

Variable number of sessions depending upon the time until case resolution and individual needs; typically, from one to ten.

Type(s) of trauma addressed:

Any interpersonal criminal victimization in which a person under 18 years of age is a victim/complainant or witnessed a violent crime, including domestic violence, and is expected to testify. Cases typically involve child physical or sexual abuse, peer violence, teen dating violence, or witnessing domestic violence.

Additional Information:

Referrals are received from police

Unique/Innovative Characteristics

The Child Witness Program, started in 1987, was the first of two such programs for child witnesses in Canada and has now served over 10,000 young people.

One of the recent advances has been the addition of the facility dog, National Service Dog (NSD) Yzer. NSD Yzer engages with the young witnesses and provides ongoing support throughout their involvement in the program. It is NSD Yzer’s innate ability to provide non-judgmental comfort and support that would make her arguably the most valuable and important member of the CWP.

Date Added/Updated:


Population Served

  • 0-5 (Early Childhood)
  • 6-12 (Childhood)
  • 13-17 (Adolescent)
Population Language:
  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Other Population Language:
    • Arabic (for languages other than English, an interpreter is used)
Ethnic Racial Group:
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Indigenous People – American Indian/Native American, Alaskan Native
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • White
  • Child
  • Child and Non-Abusive Parent/Caregiver
  • Family
Population Adaptations:
Age range of children:

4 to 18 years of age and developmentally delayed, young adults.

Parent/adult caregiver included in intervention:

Non-offending parents or other caregivers are involved in the intake assessment and also may be prepared for court if they are expected to be a witness. They are advised of case developments on an on-going basis and asked for feedback at case conclusion.

Ethnic/racial and other groups served:

First Nations reserves as well as Newcomers to Canada are within the program’s catchment area

Specific cultural adaptations:

Program staff has expertise on First Nation issues.

Languages available:

English; interpreters are used when needed (most common languages are Spanish and Arabic).


Theoretical basis:

Based on assumption that children and teens will provide higher quality evidence if they know what to expect, have a chance to practice question and answer skills, learn to be appropriately assertive in response to poorly worded or misleading questions, develop coping and stress management skills, and can be protected from common stressors on the day of court (e.g., seeing the accused or his/her/their supporters in the waiting area). For children who are required to participant in a legal system that is lengthy, adversarial, complicated, and frightening and who are often experiencing the effects of victimization, the presence of a dog can be just what they need to navigate the system and their experience successfully.

Training is provided to legal professionals to understand and meet the needs of children and to question and explain things and instruct children using age-appropriate language. The preparation strategies were first developed after a review of the psychology literature and have been refined through more than twenty years of practice.

Evaluation Studies:

Feedback is solicited from all families. Court observation studies have been conducted to rate the quality of children’s testimony.

A comparison of specialized court preparation for children with the status quo court support provided to adult witnesses indicated an increase in children’s knowledge of court procedures, reduced levels of children’s anxiety, and improved quality of testimony. The results were not published.

Other publications:

Child Witness Project. 1993. Three Years After the Verdict: A Study of the Social and Psychological Adjustment of Child Witnesses Referred to the Child Witness Project. London ON: London Family Court Clinic.

Cunningham A, Hurley P. 2007. A Full and Candid Account: Using Special Accommodations and Testimonial Aids to Facilitate the Testimony of Children. London ON: Centre for Children & Families in the Justice System.

Decker V, DiBiase B, Braden R. 2019. Calling a Young Witness: An Essentials Guide. London ON: Delta Project and London Family Court Clinic

Heslop L, Enright C, Cunningham A, Hurley P, Stevens L. 2006. When Teens Hurt Teens: Implications for Child Witness Support Programs. London ON: Centre for Children & Families in the Justice System.

Program replication:

Replicated in other Canadian jurisdictions where funding is available for specialized child witness programs.

Rated/Reviewed by Evidence Based Registries:

This intervention was not rated by the registries/databases we reviewed.

Training & Resources

Training Language:
  • English
  • Other Training Languages:
    • Could offer in other languages with the assistance of an interpreter
Training Available:
  • Yes
Training Details:
Training manuals:


Cunningham A, Stevens L. 2011. Helping a Child Be a Witness in Court: 101 Things to Know, Say and Do. London, ON: Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System. Available at:

Cunningham A. 2009. The Journey to Justice: A Guide to Thinking, Talking and Working as a Team for Young Victims of Crime in Canada’s North. London ON: Centre for Children & Families in the Justice System. Available at:

Training Contact:

Frances Nuvoloni

Program Contact

Frances Nuvoloni, BSW, RSW (she/her/hers)
Child Witness Program, Lead Clinician
London Family Court Clinic
Cell: 519.280.0304 | Email: