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May 2002Vol. 3, No. 4How Training Caregivers Affects Their Participation in Juvenile Court Hearings, Improves Outcomes

A new report by the Center for Families, Children & the Courts in California examines how the training of caregivers within the child welfare system affects their participation in juvenile court hearings and outcomes for children in their care.

Published in January 2002, the 174-page report describes its main purpose as examining "how training in the dependency court process affects caregivers' knowledge and attitudes about participating in court hearings and the likelihood that they will participate." Moreover, the study looks at "what factors determine how information from caregivers is or could be used in decision making, and what effects might caregiver participation have on the well being of children in care."

The study involved 205 caregivers in California who participated voluntarily in training about the dependency court process and their rights and responsibilities within that process. It found very strong indications that caregivers want to receive such training and that such training can significantly assist them in participating effectively in court. In pre-tests, post-tests, and 6-month follow-up tests, participants were tested about their knowledge base of the court. They learned information quickly and easily—and retained that knowledge over time. In addition, the research team interviewed eight caregiver families and observed them in court over the course of a year. Detailed case histories for each family and court participation notes are included in the report.

Project Director Regina Deihl, J.D., and her colleagues also conducted several interviews with judicial officers, social workers, and attorneys to find out their perception of caregiver input for case planning and judicial decision making. The researchers found that information from caregivers was used and valued by system participants. She commented that the Judicial Council of California has produced a new two-page form (JV-290) for caregivers who prefer to submit information in writing to the court rather than answer questions in person. Information conveyed in advance of hearings and in writing from caregivers was preferred so other court participants would be better prepared. Deihl is in the process of training caregivers on using the form and getting it online.

The report includes specific conclusions and recommendations based on the research data. One overarching recommendation of the study is that a wide spectrum of people involved in the juvenile court process, including judicial officers, attorneys, social workers, caregivers, and researchers be convened to recommend next steps in implementing caregiver participation in court.

Since the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires that States provide foster parents and kinship caregivers timely notice and an opportunity to be heard in review and permanency hearings with respect to the child in their care, this report shows that this training prepares caregivers for court participation in a way that is useful and can contribute to positive outcomes for children in foster care.

Access a copy of Caregivers and the Courts: Improving Court Decisions Affecting Children in Foster Care online at: programs/description/caregivers.htm

Contact information:

Regina Deihl, J.D.
Juvenile Projects Attorney
Center for Families, Children & the Courts
Administrative Office of the Courts
455 Golden Gate Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-865-7739

Related Items

See the following related articles in these past issues of the Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Preparing Kids for Court" (September/October 2001)
  • "Former Prosecutor Produces Educational Video for Child Witnesses" (September/October 2001)
  • "Washington and Colorado Help Parents Navigate Courts" (July/August 2001)
  • "California Guides Parents Through Dependency Courts" (July 2000)