A California judge's decision to open a county's child welfare hearings earlier this year has energized a national debate about whether greater transparency helps or harms young victims.
In nearly 20 states, including Texas, New York and Florida, those hearings are usually open to the public. And there is a push among child welfare advocates to open them in California, Kentucky and other states.
Proponents say transparency exposes the blunders of child welfare workers and puts a spotlight on judges. But critics say children are traumatized by testifying about abuse in a courtroom full of strangers.
Family courts have opened gradually since the early 1980s but the practice can vary by county or by judge, even in states that are presumed to be open.
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