COLORADO SPRINGS — They call one room in the El Paso County Courthouse the happiest place on earth. It’s an escape from the hustle and bustle of court business.
“When you come to the courthouse, you never know exactly how long anything is going to take. And it’s not really a place for children to be running around in the hallways and certainly not outside of the courtrooms and not in the courtrooms,” said Emma Webster, co-president of Court Care and local family law attorney.
Court care offers free child care for children between six weeks and 14 years old.
The service is very uncommon in the state of Colorado.
“We are one of two in the state. There’s one in Denver and there’s one here, and there’s a desperate need across the state for that,” said Jennifer Viehman, co-president of Court Care.
Court Care has been serving kids of El Paso County since 2003.
Last year, it served 5,800 kids.
“It allows the person that is going to court to be able to focus exclusively on whatever is going on. Many times people have waited six, seven months for their day in court. And to have a small child distracting you at that point in time, especially is what you’re about to do is recount very traumatic moments of your life. It’s not something that you can do at the same time,” Webster said.
The nonprofit, which runs on grants and donations, also serves as a form of protection for kids.
“Children should not see their parents in custody, they shouldn’t see their parents essentially fighting over custody of themselves. Or having to go through the trauma that a court process can be. Now, as an attorney, I don’t think that the court process is traumatic, but imagine what it would be like for a five-year-old who’s seeing their father in custody. Or imagine what it would be like for a 10-year-old who’s sitting there watching their mom and dad in a custody fight or in a divorce proceeding,” Viehman said.
For kids, Court Care can shape the image of a courthouse.
“Their perceptions of our courthouse is one of fun. Not something sad, not something terrible. And I think that is vitally important in our community,” Viehman said.