Hundreds of children go through Howard County, Md., Circuit Court each year, usually for traumatic reasons, says the Baltimore Sun. They may be testifying in child-abuse cases or their parents could be divorcing. The unpleasant experience may be made worse by having to wait for hours in the crowded, sometimes hectic courthouse hallways. Now they have their own sanctuary: a quaint waiting room, decorated with a jungle mural, that’s solely for children. Howard joins a growing number of courthouses locally and across the nation offering family waiting rooms. “I really do believe it’s important for them to have a comfortable waiting base, so their intimidation of the process is lessened a little bit,” said Diane Leasure, the Circuit Court’s administrative judge. There are similar waiting rooms in courthouses elsewhere in Maryland and in states including California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
About five children can fit in the Howard waiting room, which opened in September and was created with an $18,000 grant through the Children’s Justice Act. They can watch videos, including one starring Leasure and the Orioles mascot that explains court proceedings, or read an activity book about the judicial process. The courthouse has also added baby-changing tables to two of the restrooms. The waiting rooms can be used for hours by children who may need a distraction while parents are filing court papers or by children who need to be sheltered from an offending parent during a domestic violence case.