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About Us: Court Benefits

Benefits to the Dependency Court

Since the passage of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, courts have played an increasing pivotal role in child protection cases. Courts make fundamental decisions on child protective cases such as whether the child is reunified with his or her biological parents or how quickly a case proceeds to adoption. As partners in child protection cases, collaboration between the child welfare agencies and courts at both an individual and systemic level is critical to improving outcomes for children. Expectations regarding the need and the timeliness for permanency have been clearly set for both child welfare agencies and courts. Congress expanded the federal Court Improvement Program in 2005 to include new funding for training, data collection and data analysis. In order to receive the funding, courts must demonstrate effective collaboration with the state child welfare agency and Indian tribes, if applicable. There has also been increased emphasis on court performance by state legislatures in recent years. In the National Conference of State Legislatures 2007 report, "Delivering on the Promise", courts are encouraged to collaborate with child welfare agencies and measure and analyze data measures. FCI provides a vehicle for collaboration through the discussion and use of outcome reports. AFCARS and NCANDS data are considered the official record for the child welfare agency. However, this information is often not accessible to the courts. FCI takes these data and puts it into a format that both entities can view, opening communication about performance and alternative data sources available in the state.

In 2004 the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the National Center for State Courts, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges issued Building A Better Court, a publication outlining recommended court performance and judicial workload measures. The court performance measures cover four basic outcomes: 1) safety; 2) permanency; 3) due process; and 4) timeliness. Once released, the accompanying document, A Toolkit for Court Performance Measurement in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, will provide detailed guidance about court performance measures for child abuse and neglect cases and revise the existing list of court performance measures. Of this revised list of 30 performance measures, 9 of them can be instantly obtained from the reports on the FCI website, providing courts with a jumpstart on the toolkit measures. In addition to the 9 court performance measures, FCI provides information on numerous measures that will assist courts to gain a comprehensive understanding of their performance.

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