Enhancing Police Responses to Children Exposed to Violence - A Toolkit for Law Enforcement

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (The IACP) and the Yale Child Study Center (Yale), with support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, has launched the Enhancing Police Responses to Children Exposed to Violence: A Toolkit for Law Enforcement. This new toolkit provides practical tools and resources to assist law enforcement agencies in building or enhancing effective operational responses to children exposed to violence (with or without a mental health partner). This online toolkit contains tools targeted to police leaders and frontline officers.

When children are not identified, and supported in recovery following exposure to violence, they are at greater risk for:

  • School failure
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and personality disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems
  • Repeated victimization, and perpetration of, sexual and physical violence, and domestic violence
  • Perpetration of community violence
  • Higher rates of chronic physical illness
  • Early death.

Two of the most powerful predictors of the negative and costly long-term outcomes of failures of recovery from traumatic CEV are:

  • failure to identify children those children who have been exposed to violence
  • absence of adequate social support.

Police officers are frequently the first responders to the situations that pose such powerful threats to the safety and well-being of children and families, and are therefore in an ideal position to both identify children at risk, and initiate the process of recovery for children and families traumatized by violence and other catastrophic events. When police are prepared (through training), equipped and supported (with the toolkit) to help children, families and communities recover and heal from traumatic violence, they are in a stronger position to protect and serve the community.

When police are equipped to provide trauma-informed, developmentally-appropriate responses to children exposed to violence:

  • They can create a safe environment to help the child re-establish a sense of security and stability.
  • They can play an important role in helping the child and family begin to heal and thrive.
  • Childrens’ attitudes towards police can be shaped in the moment, or a seed can be planted to reshape attitudes towards police in the future.
  • A foundation of trust between the police, youth, families, and the community is developed.
  • When community-police relations are enhanced in this way, improvements in officer safety can be expected.
  • Officers feel more effective and satisfied in their work.

The tools within this toolkit are organized into four types:


  • Chief’s Briefing on Children Exposed to Violence
  • The Officer’s Role in Responding to Traumatized Children

Operational Protocols:

  • On-Scene Acute Protocol for Children Exposed to Violence
  • Protocol for Responding to the Needs of Children at Scenes of Domestic Violence
  • Principles and Practices of Death Notification to Children

Assessment Tool:

  • Organizational Self-Assessment Tool and Action Planning Tool

Operational Tools:

  • Reactions that Police May Observe From Children and Youth
  • What Traumatic Stress Reactions May Look Like On Scene?
  • Effective Police Responses to Traumatic Stress in Children of Different Ages
  • Commonly Asked Questions from Children and Example Police Responses
  • Common Issues with Caregivers and Police Responses
  • What To Do When Your Child Is Exposed to Violence – Brochure
  • Teaching the Tactical Breathing Technique to Children and Parents

Other Resources Available  - Classroom Training - Protecting and Serving: Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence

A two-day training, developed by the IACP and Yale, in partnership with OJJDP, is designed to prepare frontline law enforcement officers to identify and respond effectively to children exposed to violence. It will enable patrol officers to identify and interact effectively with children of all ages who have been exposed to violent and potentially-traumatic events using both developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed approaches. Participants will also learn principles and best practices for on-scene/acute responses; death notification to children; and responding to the needs of children at scenes of domestic violence. Course instruction and materials include what traumatic stress reactions may look like on scene; effective police responses to traumatic stress in children of different ages; commonly asked questions from children and sample police responses; and common issues for caregivers and police.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Differentiating between violence and trauma
  • Impact of trauma on children
  • Enhancing professional effectiveness
  • Developmentally-appropriate responses
  • Trauma-informed protocols
  • Collaborating effectively with multi-disciplinary partners.

If you are interested in bringing this training to your agency, please contact Program Manager Kelly Burke at [email protected] or 800-843-4227 ext. 842.