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March 2000Vol. 1, No. 1National Videoconference Examines Model Court Practices in Abuse and Neglect Cases

"Model" courts serving victims of child abuse have found ways to dramatically speed case processing time and have strengthened collaboration on behalf of their young clients by establishing advisory committees with representatives from various agencies.

These were among the accomplishments highlighted during a national videoconference Feb. 10 that examined efforts to improve court practices in child abuse and neglect cases.

The videoconference focused on three courts in El Paso, Texas; Newark, New Jersey; and Louisville, Kentucky. They are among 20 Child Victims Model Courts nationwide serving as laboratories for developing and implementing new practices and processes for handling child abuse cases. The Model Court Project was launched in 1992 by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice.

OJJDP, the Children's Bureau, and NCJFCJ hosted the videoconference, which included video overviews of the three courts, live discussions with the lead judges in each court, and a panel discussion by representatives of the field and of Federal and State agencies.

Several common themes emerged as instrumental in bringing about change in the courts:

  • Judicial leadership
  • Court/agency community collaboration
  • Shared vision and collective action
  • Strategic planning
  • A systems focus
  • Critical reflection and evaluation
  • Creativity and innovation.

Linda Chew of Advocacy Inc. in El Paso talked about "the joy and success of the model court. It is a team effort with attorneys, parents, therapists, caseworkers, CASA [Court Appointed Special Advocates], and the guardians ad litem" coming together and representing children.

Viewers from across the country called in questions to panelists gathered at Eastern Kentucky University Training Resource Center.

Mary Mentaberry of NCJFCJ suggested ways that communities can "model" the model courts:

  • Consulting NCJFCJ's Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse & Neglect Cases
  • Finding a judicial leader willing to make a commitment to pull all the key players in the system together
  • Tying into the State Court Improvement Programs nationwide
  • Tying into existing model courts
  • Utilizing the resources available through NCJFCJ such as publications, training, technical assistance, coordination of site visits to model courts, and its website at

Also supporting the reform effort are the State Court Improvement Program, the Children's Justice Act Program, the Edna McConnell Clark Fund, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

To download a participant packet containing brief histories and contact information for each of the Model Courts profiled, as well as other background information, visit the Juvenile Justice Teleconference Website: A videotape of the proceedings is available from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse at 800-638-8738.