OJJDP News @ A GlanceOJP seal
OJJDP News @ A Glance
September | October 2009

printer friendly version button   Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention  ·  Jeff Slowikowski, Acting Administrator
NCJFCJ Publication Highlights Model Courts' Success in Improving Outcomes in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases

The Model Court EffectA recently released publication by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) shows how best-practice decisionmaking programs have successfully enhanced outcomes
for children and families in dependency court proceedings. Funded through OJJDP's Model Dependency Courts initiative, the publication, The Model Court Effect: Proven Strategies in Systems' Change, presents data demonstrating that Model Courts can
reduce the numbers of children in foster care, increase adoptions, improve compliance with timelines for permanency hearings, reduce costs, and eliminate barriers between systems and agencies working for children and families.

The Model Dependency Courts initiative encompasses a network of juvenile and family courts in 31 States and the District of Columbia that collaborate to enhance court processes and help children in foster care find permanent homes. Drawing on NCJFCJ's best-practices books Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases and Adoption and Permanency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases as guides to systems reform, the project identifies impediments to timely court practices and delivery of services to children in care and their families as a prelude to designing and implementing strategies that address those barriers. With technical assistance and training from NCJFCJ's Permanency Planning for Children Department, such innovative practices are tested and refined as part of ongoing systems change.

Following are just a few examples of improvements in the juvenile justice system brought about through Model Courts:

  • Three of the largest jurisdictions in the Nation—Cook County (IL), Los Angeles, and New York City—reduced the number of children in foster care by 50 percent between 1998 and 2007 by becoming Model Courts.
  • Using NCJFCJ's Adoption and Permanency Guidelines, the Buffalo (NY) Model Court revised its adoption processing procedure and adoption finalizations increased by 20 percent (152 to 185) in 2006.
  • Between 1996 and 1999, the Tucson (AZ) Model Court implemented improved practices using Resource Guidelines, reducing the length of time a child remained under the jurisdiction of the court by 50 percent.
  • After becoming a Model Court, the El Paso (TX) Model Court reduced the time it took for all parties to be appointed counsel (7 days versus 41 days for the mother, 10 days versus 42 days for the father, and 3 days versus 15 days for the child).
  • Through the use of mediation programs in the Des Moines (IA) Model Court, the number of contested removal hearings was reduced by more than 50 percent.

Legal Professionals Testify to the Success of Model Courts

Following are just a few of the testimonies to the effectiveness of Model Courts cited in The Model Court Effect:

"Nothing has been more beneficial in maintaining an unwavering focus and effectively pursuing permanency and the best interest of children in the dependency system than the serious commitment to implement Model Court best practice initiatives."

—Judge Oscar Gabaldon, Jr.       
El Paso (TX) Model Court         

"Being a Model Court takes best practices off the pages of books and breathes life into them."

—Judge Louis Trosch, Jr.             
Charlotte (NC) Model Court      

"The Model Court project has given me the opportunity to come together with a group of committed and dedicated people to share frustration and to learn. It provides a source of support and numerous resources that can assist in problem-solving and developing new ideas and programs."

—Judge Ernestine Gray              
New Orleans (LA) Model Court