Casey Family Programs Expands Its Focus to Include the Judiciary

Casey Family Programs Expands Its Focus to Include the Judiciary

November 14, 2013 | The Honorable Patricia Macias, Judicial Engagement Consultant, Casey Family Programs

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Casey Family Programs has long been committed to assisting child welfare systems in safely reducing the need for foster care and ensuring more children grow up in safe, permanent families. Recently, the national foundation began to focus additional investments in judicial best practice, data-centered case management, quality legal representation, and meeting Court Improvement Program (CIP) Continuous Quality Improvement standards along with full Indian Child Welfare Act compliance to support improving outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

Casey Family Programs has long been committed to assisting child welfare systems in safely reducing the need for foster care and ensuring more children grow up in safe, permanent families. Recently, the national foundation began to focus additional investments in judicial best practice, data-centered case management, quality legal representation, and meeting Court Improvement Program (CIP) Continuous Quality Improvement standards along with full Indian Child Welfare Act compliance to support improving outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

In principle, the child welfare system and the judiciary are not at odds. Both work with the same children and families to ensure their best interests and support positive outcomes. The public holds both systems accountable for tragedy. Rarely, if ever, is there positive reinforcement for jobs well done. Judicial and child welfare systems operate under the same federal law, which requires reasonable efforts to keep kids safe while living with family. If ordered into foster care, the systems attend to each child’s basic and well-being needs and work at building supportive communities around vulnerable families.

Similarities do not present challenges to the shared goal of keeping children in safe, permanent families it is the distinct roles each play in furtherance of the result. These distinct roles, created by the third branch, present a delicate interplay between courts and the child welfare system. It is precisely this convergence that Casey Family Programs’ judicial engagement aims to strengthen.

Integrating the two public systems’ approach to reducing the need for foster care under common principles of safety, permanency, and well-being is a daunting but reachable goal. Casey Family Programs, through its strategic consulting work, has successfully supported the efforts of child welfare systems to improve practices throughout the nation and Puerto Rico.

Using these same principles—while respecting separation of powers and judicial independence—the foundation’s judicial engagement investments will assist court systems to best realize practices that benefit children and families.

Beginning next year, Casey Family Programs will offer court-related consulting and strategic planning to eight states: Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, California, Missouri, Arizona, Florida, and Indiana. A tenured and highly experienced team comprised of a judicial consultant, legal advocate, court administration, and CIP specialists will be formed to work with trial courts to state supreme courts. Assisting courts in using data to inform what needs to be done to achieve the best outcomes for children will be a critical step in changing and improving practice.

Collaboration between courts and child welfare agencies along with other community stakeholders has long been recognized as a requirement for the protection and well-being of children. Casey Family Programs’ Judicial Engagement will build on the foundation of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care recommendations highlighting the need for effective collaboration. Together with partners National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, National Center for State Courts, and American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, among others, the new judicial engagement focus at Casey Family Programs is committed to supporting judicial leadership at all levels to work in alignment with child welfare to achieve the best outcomes for children and their families.

Judge Patricia A. Macías (ret.) is a judicial engagement consultant at Casey Family Programs. She was previously judge of the 388th Judicial District Family Court in El Paso, Texas. She is a past president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; was a founding member of the Texas Supreme Court Commission on Children, Youth and Families; and served on the Pew Commission on Foster Care.