Monday, July 20, 2009

Judicial Commissions for Children

In 2004, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care issued “Fostering the Future,” a report that made recommendations about how to move children from foster care into safe, permanent, nurturing families and prevent unnecessary placements. As part of the report, the Pew Commission recommended four key strategies for strengthening courts in the child-protection system:
1. Courts must have the ability to track children’s progress, identify children in need of attention, and identify sources of delay in court proceedings.
2. Courts and public agencies should be required to demonstrate effective collaboration on behalf of children.
3. Children and their parents must have a direct voice in court, effective representation, and the timely input of those who care about them
4. Chief Justices and state court leadership must take the lead, acting as the foremost champions for children and making sure recommendations of the Pew Commission are enacted.[i]

In September 2005, the Pew Commission recommendations were the subject of the Judicial Leadership Summit on the Protection of Children in Minneapolis. This watershed event stimulated more focused judicial attention on the plight of children and youth in foster care. However, exercising visible judicial leadership as recommended by Pew is not necessarily easy, comfortable, or customary for a supreme court, nor does it come naturally to many trial judges who are called upon to handle and champion child abuse cases. Several states including Texas have pursued the four Pew strategies through the formation of judicial commissions to develop policy designed to improve courts for children, youth, and families in the child-protection system.

A Sampling of Judicial Commissions on Children

Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth & Families
Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care
Ohio Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Court
Vermont Justice for Children Task Force
New York Permanent Commission on Justice for Children
Nebraska Supreme Court Commission on Children in the Courts
Georgia Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law
California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care

[i] Pew Comm’n on Children in Foster Care, Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster Care 17-18 (2004), available at http://pewfostercare/org.

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