The Couch

The Couch – Where we analyze our professional dilemmas

The Couch is here.  This is a space where we can share our doubts, our knowledge and help our colleagues. All data that might make the parties or case identifiable have been removed.
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Small Children and the Courtroom: a toxic mix?

I am an experienced interpreter who recently began working on a regular basis in a courthouse where, for many reasons, litigants are often accompanied by small children (much more than any other courthouse I’ve worked in). They frequently spend all day waiting in the hallway and are in the courtrooms during their parents’ hearings–even at counsel table. Naturally, even the best-behaved small children become restless and fussy. For the most part, they don’t interfere with my own ability to do my job (except when they try to play with my equipment), but they do distract their parents and court personnel and confuse the record.
I have thought about beginning to carry in my equipment bag a small selection of things to keep children occupied–such as paper, crayons, and stickers for the older children, and one or two quiet, easily-sterilized toys for the babies.
Obviously, handing a baby a toy is far outside the simple commitment to convey messages between parties. On the other hand, we don’t stop being human beings, and I feel like certain things are so removed from interpreting that they aren’t subject to the same standard. (For example, if someone stops me in the hallway and asks the time or where the bathroom is.)
I would love to hear my colleagues’ perspectives. Ethically and practically, is there any reason not to offer something to occupy a child during a court hearing or interview?

Let’s hear what you have to say to our colleague.

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