Individual Perspective on Effectiveness in Child Welfare: Through the Court’s Lens

Individual Perspective on Effectiveness in Child Welfare: Through the Court’s Lens


♪ ♪ CHRISTINE: Hello,
I’m Christine Kiesel. I’m an attorney and I
work for JBS International as a contractor to
the Children’s Bureau. I worked as a port
legal in judicial integration into the Childhood
Family Services Review and Child Welfare
Policy more broadly. Prior to this role I was the Court
Improvement Program Coordinator for the State of New York as well as having represented
children and parents in child welfare proceedings and I also sat as a
court attorney referee in a family court hearing cases
of child abuse and neglect. When we talk about
courts as being partners, I want to clarify that
what we’re really talking about is the legal and
judicial systems and the legal and
judicial professionals. We’re talking about the lawyers, we’re talking about the judges, we’re talking about
the court administrators, the CIP programs and we’re talking about
institutional providers. So, when we mention the
courts what we really want to keep in mind is that all of these
individuals have unique roles and they all have a piece
to bring to the conversation when we’re talking
about systems improvement. So please be
mindful when you say courts and you think that there’s
collaboration with the courts because we’re collaborating
maybe with a judge or maybe with a
court improvement program that there’s
lots of other players that we can integrate
into the conversation so that we have a
complete and holistic approach to systems change. In order to be
effective in those roles what that means to me is that we really have
a deep understanding that by attending
to the system needs, the child welfare system
needs that we’re also attending to the individual case needs, the individual family’s needs and the
individual child’s needs. And all of those will benefit. We can attend to
that systems needs and those individual needs
by really integrating the work of the legal judicial
processes into the work that’s been traditionally
held as the work of the agency. And I keep saying integrating and I know we’re very familiar
with the term collaborating, but integration goes
beyond collaboration. Collaborating is necessary
but not necessarily sufficient in order to truly
make improvements for children and families. We’re seeing some very strong
examples of this integration when you examine
what’s been happening around three of the CFSRs. We’ve got lawyers, judges,
CIP programs going beyond just support for agencies’
efforts and initiatives, but actually
looking at their own data, examining what the
needs are from the legal and judicial system perspective
and committing to strategies and interventions that are going
to improve the overall system by making changes to
the processes and practices that the lawyers are engaged in, that the judges are engaged in, that the CIP can
help at the systems level and at the state level to effectuate
those local practices. We’re seeing efforts by
the judges and the lawyers at reducing delays and
continuances in cases. We’re seeing
programs that attend to improving the quality of
hearings in child welfare cases. We’re seeing
lawyers who are committing to improving practice. So, we’re seeing some quality legal
representation programs as well. This strong collaboration
and efforts at integration are really very
well grounded in data. Courts are improving their
data sets and their use of data and they’re
identifying what’s working well so that we can replicate those, also what are areas
in need of improvement so that we can address those and hopefully
provide better outcomes for all the
children and families that we see in our courts.

Daniel Yohans

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