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November 2009Vol. 10, No. 9Court Collaboration Expedites Adoptions

A new report from Michigan's State Court Administrative Office describes how 13 counties with the largest adoption dockets in Michigan achieved a 14-percent increase in adoptions in 1 year. The State's Court Improvement Program funded a collaborative project that focused on achieving permanency for children with an identified adoptive parent whose goal was adoption but who had been waiting more than 1 year for the adoption to be finalized.

According to the report, each county involved with the project was asked to gather a cross-disciplinary team of child welfare agency staff, court professionals, and other stakeholders to assess their court practices and develop and implement strategies to expedite the adoption process. County teams were also invited to three adoption forums to provide progress updates, share successful strategies, and identify best practices across the State.

Based on the counties' assessment efforts and results from the forums, the report synthesizes information on issues such as barriers to adoption, child-specific recruitment strategies, and court involvement in permanency planning. The counties identified some best practices to address adoption delays, including:

  • Hold frequent trouble-shooting meetings among stakeholders
  • Create special court dockets to handle problem cases
  • Use an adoption checklist to keep all parties apprised of progress
  • Reduce adoption workers' caseloads to increase productivity
  • Have judges intervene in lengthy interstate adoptions
  • Set paperwork deadlines and bring individuals to court if there are undue delays

Due in part to the project's success, 10 more Michigan counties with the largest adoption dockets have joined the effort, and the focus has expanded to include all foster children awaiting permanency. The project will continue holding forums and disseminating best practices within the State and across the country to improve outcomes for all children and families involved with the child welfare system.

Download the full report, Adoption Forum I: Final Report, from the Michigan State Court Administrative Office website: (127 KB)