- July/August 2001
- Vol. 2, No. 4
Washington and Colorado Help Parents Navigate Courts
Navigating the courts can be a confusing maze for parents who are involved in dependency cases. In Washington and Colorado new initiatives aim to educate and prepare parents for the process.
"Dependency 101" is a six-hour course that parents in Washington State attend to learn about the dependency process and to prepare themselves to take active steps to meet the requirements for their children's return home.
In Colorado's 20th Judicial District, a manual has been produced to educate incarcerated parents about dependency and neglect cases, divorce cases, child support, and parenting from prison.
In the Washington State course, parents learn about the roles of different attorneys, social workers, guardians ad litem (volunteers appointed by the court to advocate for a child's best interests), and support personnel who may be brought in to help the parents. The agenda topics include:
- Opening introductions and overview of the workshop
- Overview of dependency process
- Building better communication skills
- Key areas of parental responsibility
- Overview of reunification support services
- Action planning.
Stephen Brundage, director of Family Renewal Resources, the agency that developed and administers the course for the State, said that approximately 500 parents have attended the course in the last two years. The program started in Snohomish County in February 1999 and expanded to Spokane County in March 2001. Within the next year, King County also will launch this program.
The feedback from workshop participants has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative. "We provide parents a sort of 'map' to de-mystify the process and help parents take a more active role. We also provide a 'listening ear,' an opportunity for parents to be heard about their experience of the process and the emotions it generates," explained Brundage. "Finally, we challenge parents to engage the work they need to do, not only for their children to be returned, but also to become the best parents they can."
In Colorado, "it took over a year to put [the manual] in a format that incarcerated parents could understand," said Carolyn McLean, family court facilitator. A final draft form is being reviewed by focus groups in prison and halfway houses. It will eventually be distributed to jails and States prisons in Colorado.
A video is also in the final stages of production, which shows incarcerated parents in Colorado what to expect in a dependency and neglect case. Originally oriented for one judicial district, it is being edited to apply to all of Colorado. When completed, it will be distributed to the State Department of Corrections and local jails. A coalition of social service, judicial, prison, and community advocate staff produced both the video and manual with grant funding.
Family Renewal Resources
654 West Olympic Place
Seattle, WA 98119
Family Court Facilitator
20th Judicial District
Boulder, CO 80306
See the following related articles in past issues of the Children's Bureau Express:
- "Bureau of Justice Statistics Report Reveals Increase in Incarcerated Parents" (March/April 2001)
- "California Guides Parents Through Dependency Courts" (July 2000)
- "California Courts Produce Activity Book for Kids" (July 2000)