Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence

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

(Online PDF)

(Request Hardcopy)


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 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.

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

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


To request the Enhancing Police Responses to Children Exposed to Violence: A Toolkit for Law Enforcement, please click here and complete the requested information.

Other Resources Available

Protecting and Serving: Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence
Classroom Training

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.


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

On September 27, 2017 from 3:00 to 4:30PM ET, the IACP and the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center, in partnership with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice, presented the webinar “Enhancing Police Responses to Children Exposed to Violence: A Toolkit for Law Enforcement.” Webinar panelists provided an overview of the issue of children exposed to violence, discussed the role of police officers in the life of a child exposed to violence, and provided an overview of the toolkit and how law enforcement can utilize these tools in their role as police officers in the community. The webinar recording and handouts can be downloaded on the OJJDP Online University found here .

If you are interested in bringing this training to your agency, please contact Program Manager Kelly Burke at burkek@theiacp.org or 800-843-4227 ext. 842.

Upcoming Resources in Development

  1. Police Chief Magazine’ Working for You feature on the National Toolkit (upcoming in 2017).

About the Project

The IACP and Yale are engaged in a multi-year initiative, supported by OJJDP, to increase the capacity of law enforcement officers to identify and respond to children exposed to violence (CEV). As part of this initiative, the IACP and Yale provides resources and tools necessary to equip law enforcement professionals in their vital role in helping children and families through identification and trauma-informed response to violent events.

The IACP and Yale have achieved these goals through two primary activities:

  • Build on materials and resources that have been developed and recognized as best practices in law enforcement response to CEV to create a series of tools and resources that can equip law enforcement agencies to meaningfully address children’s exposure to violence through operations, policies and procedures;
  • Utilize and refine existing models of training for law enforcement professionals, and the breadth of the IACP-developed venues for review and dissemination, to offer resources, training and technical assistance related to law enforcement responses to CEV in order to reach the largest possible number of law enforcement officers.

Project Design and Implementation

Advisory Group
A multidisciplinary advisory group was established early in the project to:

  • Provide strategic advice to inform project development;
  • Advise on optimal methods to increase the adoption and utilization of trauma-informed responses by law enforcement;
  • Provide guidance on best methods and tools to increase awareness on CEV within law enforcement.

Focus Group 
IACP and Yale convened three focus group meetings with front, supervisory and command-level law enforcement to:

  • Inform training, technical assistance, and resource development;
  • Provide recommendations on how to adapt tools and resources for various types of communities; and provide an opportunity for stakeholders to offer feedback on new and adapted tools and resources.

Related Websites

Changing Minds Public Awareness Campaign
IACP’s Youth Focused Policing Website
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Child Development-Community Policing at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department
Yale Child Study Center 


For more information, please contact Program Manager Kelly Burke at burkek@theiacp.org or 800-843-4227 ext. 842.

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2012-CV-BX-K056 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.