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November 2000Vol. 1, No. 7Benefits of Using Non-Judicial Staff to Aid Dependency Courts

Learn about ways that non-judicial court staff can help courts more quickly achieve permanency for children in an article by the ABA Center on Children and the Law ( courtstaffing.html).

Center staff studied the responsibilities of non-judicial court staff in several courts around the country. Although the study was not exhaustive, they found some promising practices in increasing dependency courts' effectiveness and efficiency. Non-judicial court staff as used in this article excludes judges and magistrates and includes people who work either inside or outside chambers and perform tasks for the court, even though they may not be employed for the court. Their research focused on the following activities:

  • Innovative docketing practices
  • On-site drug, alcohol assessments, and paternity screening
  • Deadline tracking on individual cases
  • Providing early case information to the judge
  • Creating and distributing court orders
  • Scheduling hearings and noticing parties
  • Pre-appointment of counsel as a means to improved outcomes.

The authors discuss the benefits of each practice. They conclude that the examples they found "demonstrate that small changes in procedure have the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of children in the child welfare system and their families."

To share information about innovative efforts related to responsibilities of non-judicial court staff, contact:
Molly Hicks
ABA Center on Children and the Law
740 15th St., NW
9th Floor
Washington, DC 20005-1009
Phone: (202) 662-1759
Fax: (202) 662-1755

Related Items

For other ways dependency courts are improving services and making the experience more friendly to families, see these articles in past issues of the Children's Bureau Express:

  • "National Videoconference Examines Model Court Practices in Abuse and Neglect Cases" (March 2000)
  • "Model Courts are Models for Change" (May 2000)
  • "California Courts Produce Activity Book for Kids" (July 2000)
  • "California Guides Parents Through Dependency Courts" (July 2000)