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Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Child Protection Cases A Presentation by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Legal and Judicial Issues ABA.

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Presentation on theme: "Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Child Protection Cases A Presentation by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Legal and Judicial Issues ABA."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Child Protection Cases A Presentation by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Legal and Judicial Issues ABA Center on Children and the Law May 2002 Copyright ©MMII By the American Bar Association

2 Potential Benefits of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Court Improvement Judicial decisions based on more complete information. Agency planning and court decisions more in sync. Courts and agencies identify and diagnose cross- disciplinary and agency-judicial problems. Improved mutual respect and courtesy. Better outcomes for abused and neglected children.

3 Some Typical Interdisciplinary Problems Excess waiting time in court. Insufficient case documentation and preparation for court. Incomplete testimony and evidence. Mutual hostility or wariness. Inefficient process for scheduling hearings. Turnover of judges and caseworkers. Unhelpful or wrongly focused court reports. Difficulties with access to services.

4 Some Interdisciplinary Court Improvement Issues Investigations and assessments. Court reports and pleadings. Case preparation and presentation. Scheduling of hearings and appearances. Co-location of services. Joint projects. Automated performance evaluation and case management. Mutual relationships. Consumer surveys.

5 Investigations When might the court be involved? –Court ordered entry when parties do not cooperate. –Court ordered access to documents. –Court ordered interviews or depositions of non cooperative witnesses. Why is this important? These procedures are not often needed. –To encourage workers not to give up on investigations. –To provide more complete information to the judge. How can we establish these processes? –Enact laws? –Establish the procedures through the legal process itself. –Then work out logistics with the court.

6 Assessments and Access to Complete Information Why? –Early permanency and well focused early case plans. Examples : –Criminal records –Justice system involvement –Mental health issues –Drug treatment –Prior court proceedings

7 Scenario A parent has been involved in drug related criminal activities for years. Several times, as a condition of probation or parole, the parent has been ordered into drug treatment. Each time, the parent failed to successfully complete the treatment. The child protection agency, not knowing about the history of criminal involvement or the court ordered drug treatment, develops a case plan calling for additional drug treatment. If the agency had the full criminal and treatment records, it could have decided whether to fast track the case and move more quickly for a new permanent home for the child.

8 Getting Information More Consistently 1. We need to make sure that our law allows the agency to get the records. 2. We need to set up good interagency communications and information sharing procedures. 3. The child protection agency needs forms and routine procedures that require caseworkers to get very complete records at the beginning of each case. 4. The child protection agency needs good legal help when parents or other agencies do not agree to provide information. 5. There should be a routine and swift process for agency attorneys to go to court to get information when the agency needs it and isn’t getting cooperation.

9 Steps to Gain Early Access to Needed Confidential Information  Attorneys and courts restructure early motions and hearings to ensure that court orders will, when appropriate, include include orders for assessments and access to records.  Example: Use shelter care hearing to begin the process of getting timely access to drug treatment records.  Example: There are criminal records checks of parents and other adults that might reside in the child’s household, and the agency informs the judge of the results.  Attorneys and caseworkers routinely inform the judge when they may need records and information.  Judges routinely ask attorneys and parties about the child’s and parents’ involvement with other systems and treatment.

10 Court Reports and Pleadings  Purpose of court report and pleadings  Help the judge decide issues before the judge at the specific hearing.  Convince the judge of the need to make decisions requested by the agency.  Strategy of court reports and pleadings  Provide relevant information and eliminate extraneous information.  Make it convenient for judge to use your suggestions -- provide the information in the most helpful format.  Linkage of court reports and court orders  Format the court report to match the format of the court order.  Attorneys, judges, and agency managers consult in designing general formats for court reports and court orders.

11 Case Preparation and Presentation An example: The termination petition the judge couldn’t grant. Ideas: –Interdisciplinary discussions of agency case preparation and presentation -- include judges, CASA administrators, and defense counsel. –Reformatting of court reports. –Develop sample good and mediocre examples of court reports and pleadings. Develop uniform forms and policies for case documentation. –Information from visits. –Information from contacts with services providers. Develop protocols for case preparation and information sharing with defense counsel.

12 Scheduling of Hearings and Appearances Goals: –Each hearing occurs at a specified time. –Needs and convenience of attorneys and agency workers are taken into account in scheduling hearings. The ability of the court to make scheduling improvements is linked, in part, to judicial caseloads and workloads. In some states, elected court clerks set court schedules. The agency and bar must cooperate in improved schedules by reliably being present and prepared on time.

13 Co-location of Services Why co-locate services? –Time and efficiency, permanency and safety What would they be in an ideal world? –Paternity testing –Parent locator services –Psychological testing –Drug testing –And? Typical features: –One time only or episodic types of services –Not performed by public child protection agency –May require court order to gain cooperation –Important to for moving forward the court process

14 Joint Projects Why?” –Agencies, attorneys, and courts necessarily work with one another, and it takes joint efforts to improve the working relationships. Limits of joint projects: –Projects addressing particular issues or problems must include persons taking different views of the issues. –Projects must deal with issues of common concern. –Judges must remain independent concerning substantive issues coming before the court.

15 Examples of Joint Projects Problem solving task forces -- e.g., for reduction of delays. Protocol development. Establishing “problem solving courts” -- e.g., drug courts. Establishing ADR, such as mediation or family group conferences.

16 Collaboration in Automated Performance Measurement: Purposes of Information Exchange Measuring performance regarding permanency: –Time between events -- e.g., removal from home to adoption. –Changes of placements –Disruptions of placements intended to be permanent –Rates of permanency alternatives -- return home, adoption, legal guardianship, etc. Measuring performance regarding safety: –New incidents of abuse or neglect, during or after court involvement –Comparing safety results for different case categories (e.g., cases in drug court) Measuring performance regarding fairness and thoroughness: –Notice on both parents –Notice on foster parents –Presence of counsel during hearings –Presence of parents and age appropriate children during hearings

17 Collaboration in Automated Performance Measurement: Automated Data Exchange to Help Evaluate Performance 1. Transmitting information from the agency to the court: Date of removal (permanency). Demographic information: age, sex, ethnic background, sibling groups (diagnosis of problems). Changes of placement (permanency). Incidents of reoccurrence (safety). Disruptions of permanent placements (permanency). 2. Transmitting information from the court to the agency : Date of key legal events -- petitions, adjudication, termination of parental rights, and adoption (permanency). Presence of caseworkers, key witnesses, attorneys at hearings(quality assurance).

18 Collaboration in Automated Case Management: Future Uses of Computers Electronic transfer of reports and petitions. Automated but selective downloading of generally undisputed information on each case. –E.g., demographic information and addresses of foster parents. –The information then populates the court’s computer screens screens and documents. –The downloaded information aids in automatically generation of notices, reminders, and other documents. Capacity to download reports, petitions, and motions from different parties –Judge decides what and when to download. –On demand, system incorporates information into court orders and findings. –Judge can modify downloaded information.

19 Collaboration in Automated Case Management: Future Uses of Computers (Continued)  Templates for agency and court documents.  Agency staff and attorneys can file documents by completing court templates.  Staff can download information from their data system into the templates.  Templates have built-in reminders for requirements like reasonable efforts, ICWA.  Templates for court orders have built-in reminders of issues the court is to to address, such as compliance of parties with prior court orders.

20 Interdisciplinary and Cross System Relationships: “Playing Social Worker” When is an attorney or judge “playing social worker”? When the judge or attorney tries to build strong personal relationships with clients? –What about in drug court? When an authority figure tries to be a father or mother figure? When the judge modifies details of the case plan (or an attorney asks the judge to do so)? –What if the judge modifies the case plan because the parties have a dispute about its terms? –What if someone introduced evidence supporting the modification? When the judge asks penetrating questions? When you are convinced the attorney or judge is wrong?

21 Interdisciplinary and Cross System Relationships: Mutual Respect Workers encourage people to come to court?  Note: Attendance at court hearings in Cincinnati and Grand Rapids.  Note: Foster parents not appearing in court. Court hearings encourage people to come to court.  Court hearings are substantive.  Judges deal with parties and witnesses respectfully. Behavior in court is professional.  Judge prepares for court.  Caseworkers and attorneys prepare before coming to court.  Professionals dress for court.  Judges, attorneys, and caseworkers are respectful.

22 Consumer Surveys Public feedback.  Teachers, mandatory reporters. Consumer feedback.  Expert witnesses  Caseworkers and supervisors  Parents  Age appropriate children  Foster parents  Focus groups and surveys?  Agency help in this process?

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