November/December 2001Vol. 2, No. 6New Brochure Solicits Community Support in Court Improvement
In an effort to engage communities in helping to improve dependency courts, the American Bar Association's (ABA's) Center on Children and the Law has developed a brochure for use in public education and other outreach efforts.
Forty-seven States and the District of Columbia participate in the federally funded National Child Welfare Court Improvement program. Through the program, the jurisdictions first assessed their court systems' handling of child abuse and neglect cases and then recommended systemic improvements. The courts are now in the process of implementing improvement plans. Some of the major issues addressed by the State court improvement projects include:
- Timeliness of permanency planning hearings
- Quality and depth of hearings
- Quality of legal representation
- Judicial training and education
- Treatment of parties and witnesses
- Multidisciplinary approaches that emphasize collaboration between court, agency, and community
According to Eva J. Klain of the ABA Center on Children and the Law, the brochure was developed at the request of several court improvement projects who wanted something to hand out to the community. Several directors of court improvement projects reviewed the text.
The ABA brochure provides background on the court improvement project and describes how courts are trying to become more "family-friendly" by making waiting rooms more inviting for children, providing materials that explain the court process in lay terms, and introducing other innovations. The brochure explains the challenges faced by attorneys working for children and steps that are being taken to remedy problems.
The brochure lists several ideas for involving the public in court improvement projects. "Community support is crucial for the long-term success of court improvement," states the brochure. "Individuals, local organizations and businesses all have skills and ideas to contribute to improve the courts that serve children and families."
Made possible through a grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation, the brochure is available online. Local courts can print the brochure in PDF format for printer-friendly reproduction or view it in HTML format at: http://www.abanet.org/child/brochure.html
Eva J. Klain
Director, Court Improvement
ABA Center on Child and the Law
740 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005-1019