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July 2012Vol. 13, No. 6Judicial Reform in New York

Two recent publications address ongoing court improvement efforts in New York State that show promise for addressing the particular problems of youth involved with both child welfare and juvenile justice.

Promoting Continuous Quality Improvement Through "Collective Impact" was published by the New York Child Welfare Count Improvement Project (CWCIP). It describes the CIP's continuous quality improvement (CQI) process focused on improving practice between judicial and child welfare systems in several jurisdictions in New York State. CWCIP's approach to systems change incorporates five components, including a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a backbone support organization. This collective impact tactic is described in the article "Collective Impact" by John Kania and Mark Kramer, which appeared in the winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article is available here: (878 KB)

The CWCIP published a brief with definitions of each of the five components necessary for successful systems change—excerpted from the article "Collective Impact"—and descriptions of the State's CQI goals and ongoing efforts to achieve desired outcomes.

The brief, Promoting Continuous Quality Improvement Through "Collective Impact, is available on the New York State Unified Court System website: (72 KB)

In the second publication, New York City Child Permanency Mediation Program Evaluation, authors Nancy Thoennes and Rasa Kaunelis examine a mediation program utilized in New York City from 2002 until September 2011. The program was suspended in 2011 because of budget cuts.

Mediation was piloted in New York City in response to the 2001 Federal Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) for the State of New York. The CFSR indicated a need to ensure timely permanency, as well as support visitation and relationships between parents and children in care, creating individualized service plans, and promote court and agency cooperation.

The evaluation compared cases that were and were not referred to mediation. The study also included interviews with a range of practitioners who had participated in the mediation process. The findings generally supported continuing mediation, for instance:

  • Cases referred to mediation had fewer court hearings and fewer court appearances than the comparison group.
  • Cases with mediation had three times as many children in out-of-home care for 1 year or less compared to cases not referred to mediation.
  • Cases referred to mediation were more likely to be in partial or full compliance with court-ordered service plans. Cases that were not mediated were three times as likely to be described as noncompliant.
  • The mediation group was almost twice as likely as the comparison group to have visitation awarded.
  • Child welfare professionals who were interviewed felt strongly that the program should be reinstated.

New York City Child Permanency Mediation Program Evaluation was funded by the New York State Unified Court system with State CIP funding provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. It is available on the New York State Unified Court System website:  (329 KB)