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July/August 2004Vol. 5, No. 6Guide and Toolkit Help Courts Improve Performance for Children and Families

Of the nearly 1 million substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect in the United States each year, 150,000 require court action. This action includes determining whether children will be removed from their homes, how long they will remain in foster care, and where they will permanently reside. A new guide and toolkit funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is designed to help courts handling child abuse and neglect cases assess their performance to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families.

Building a Better Court: Measuring and Improving Court Performance and Judicial Workload in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases and its companion toolkit provide a reliable baseline measure of performance and workload, and a process with which to continue assessment efforts beyond initial evaluations. Together, the guide and toolkit strive to help courts to measure:

  • Their success in helping achieve child safety
  • Their success in helping attain permanency for abused and neglected children
  • Their procedural fairness toward children, families, and agencies
  • The timeliness of their hearings and decisions
  • (Eventually) their role in achieving well-being for the children they serve.

The guide and toolkit are the result of a 4-year combined effort of the American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law, the National Center for State Courts, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The court performance measures reinforce and compliment Federal initiatives and standards including the Child and Family Services Reviews. The guide is available at

Related Item

For more on assessing court performance, see "Reassessing Court Performance in Child Protection Cases" in this issue.