The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has added 12 new state and tribal courts to its Implementation Sites Project, an OJJDP-funded initiative to improve outcomes for abused or neglected children.
With the expansion in March 2021, a total of 37 jurisdictions in 20 states have now committed to implementing best practices outlined in NCJFCJ's Enhanced Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practices in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases.
The Enhanced Resource Guidelines serve as a blueprint for NCJFCJ's efforts to provide training and technical assistance to judges presiding over child abuse and neglect cases. The publication covers all stages of the court process—from the preliminary protective hearing until the child has been safely returned home or placed in a new, secure, and permanent home.
"Children embroiled in dependency proceedings have already suffered, often at the hands of people they trust most," said OJJDP Acting Administrator Chyrl Jones. "With the Implementation Sites Project, NCJFCJ is working to reduce the turmoil these children experience. OJJDP continues to support this work and we are excited by the expansion."
Participating sites also commit to prioritizing and following NCJFCJ’s Key Principles for Permanency Planning for Children, which envision dependency proceedings that respect the dignity and autonomy of the youth and families involved. Among other objectives, the 10 key principles espouse keeping families together, ensuring access to justice, cultivating cultural responsiveness, and engaging families through alternative dispute resolution techniques.
Implementation sites develop plans for reform, pursuing short-term goals based on practices outlined in the Enhanced Resource Guidelines. Site managers coordinate training, technical assistance, and specialized support, and designated lead judges oversee progress. Sites are meant to learn from each other. While they commit to reforming policies, practices, and programs within their own jurisdictions, NCJFCJ also charges implementation sites with modeling change at the state, regional, and national levels.
"The Enhanced Resource Guidelines…provide us with a structured and innovative framework that will enable us to better meet the needs of those children and families that we serve."
—Judge Dan H. Michael, Memphis and Shelby County, TN
Funding for the Implementation Sites Project comes from OJJDP's Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel program, which seeks to improve how the youth justice and dependency systems respond to abuse, neglect, commercial sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking.
OJJDP remains committed to improving court practice in child maltreatment cases and decreasing the amount of time children spend in foster care. In addition to supporting the Implementation Sites Project, a grant awarded to NCJFCJ in 2018 funds training and technical assistance to judges and allied professionals at three Project ONE sites—which take a holistic approach to families—and eight tribal Model Court project sites.
To date, NCJFCJ has received nearly $7.6 million in OJJDP funding to support training and technical assistance for implementation sites, Project ONE sites, and Model Court project grantees. Between July 1 and December 31, 2020, NCJFCJ trained 1,131 judicial staff at 14 events, responded to 55 requests for training and technical assistance, and distributed more than 318 hardcopy publications nationwide. Twenty-nine courts reported improved operations based on the training and technical assistance received.
Learn more about the Implementation Sites Project by reading Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases.