Judge Wyant and the Therapy Dog

By Audrey Udemba, Communcations Intern

The child welfare legal system is based on the notion that children have needs and capacties that differ from adults. Unlike adults, children are still in the process of developing mentally, physically, and emotionally, as they form their identities.

For some of the most abused and neglected children, the juvenile court is there to protect them, but it can be confusing and stressful for a child. Judge Joseph Wyant, Juvenile Court of Coweta County, understands the stress and trauma that these childre go through, and has taken an interesting step to helping kids in this situation by having a therapy dog available to his courtroom.

Judge Joseph Wyant and ScoutJudge Wyant’s therapy dog, Scout, is a brown eyed, mild mannered Boykin Spaniel. Since a good percentage of Judge Wyant’s clients are traumatized children, it is especially convenient that Scout’s training focuses on helping people with PTSD.    According to Judge Wyant, “She senses people with heightened emotional states and she gravitates toward them.  She would make herself available by maybe sitting next to you, or hopping on your lap.  What we find is that she not only helps reduce the tension in the room, but there is a significant change in demeanor when the kids interact with her.  They are able to open up more and feel relaxed.”

Scout has also proven to be a joy to have around the office.  According to one of the staff members, “We love having her here. She facilitates a light-hearted and friendly environment in the office.”  When asked about Scout’s interaction with the children at court, she added “she’s also a hit with the kids, and that’s what’s most important to us – the kids.  So it’s a win-win situation for us.”

Regardless of Scout’s calm and friendly disposition, Judge Wyant makes sure to ask the parent or the guardian of the child if he or she is comfortable with the dog interacting with them.  Wyant adds, “It gives them a sense of control over the situation and prevents any unwanted reactions.”  The staff’s consent was very important as well, according to Judge Wyant.  “Prior to getting Scout we all had to get on board with the idea.  If anyone of the staff members had an adverse reaction to dogs, getting Scout would have been completely out of the question.”

Scout’s training sessions are primarily funded by Judge Wyant himself. “It’s all for the kids.  I do my job because I genuinely want to help in making a difference.  If this is the smallest price I have to pay for a bit of joy on their faces, then it’s worth the money.”

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Contact AOC

Administrative Office of the Courts 244 Washington Street, SW Suite 300 Atlanta, GA  30334

Pop Quiz

Can you name the Georgia judge who officiates college football games?
Find the answer on our Facebook and Twitter accounts: @GACourts!

Feedback

Let us know what you think about the Georgia Courts Journal. Send your feedback, corrections, suggestions, and submissions to Information@georgiacourts.gov

Social Media

Follow the AOC on Facebook! Like us at www.facebook.com/GACourts today.

Receive Tweets from the AOC! Follow us at twitter.com/GACourts.