Cincinnati Mentor Model Court

Brief History

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court was the one of the first Model Courts to help refine and implement the court improvement principles advocated by the Resource Guidelines. Under the leadership of then Presiding Judge David Grossmann, the Cincinnati Model Court served as a national demonstration site for other courts engaged in making systemic improvements in child abuse and neglect cases. In 2008, the Cincinnati Model Court has been promoted to Mentor Model Court status and recognized its efforts to implement positive and sustainable systems’ change.


Current Lead Judge(s):  Judge John Williams, Administrative Magistrate Carla Guenthner, Deputy Administrative Magistrate Scheherazade Washington.

Past Lead Judge(s): Judge David Grossmann (ret.), Judge Thomas Lipps (ret.) and Judge Karla Grady (ret.).

Court website -

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1.  Kids in School Rule! (KISR!)

KISR! began in 2008 as a program for school-aged youth in the custody of Cincinnati Job and Family Services (JFS) or under JFS supervision who attend one of the 22 participating schools in the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) school district. Under this pilot program, six public and private partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the design and implementation of this cutting edge project. The objectives for this program are consistent with research that underscores the critical and powerful impact of education on the lives and futures of children in the child protection system.

In October 2011, after being awarded a Discretionary Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the program expanded to eligible students in all CPS schools. Through the program, a CPS Liaison was identified in each school who works collaboratively with two JFS Education Specialists who support KISR! students. Together, the CPS Liaisons and the JFS Education Specialists (along with JFS caseworkers) monitor and attend to the educational needs of each student, lining up additional supports as needed. Juvenile Court Magistrates utilize a Judicial Checklist and received a KISR! Court Report, which ensures a focus on educational issues when KISR! students are in court. The Legal Aid Society provides advocacy for students in the program who are proposed for school discipline or who have issues related to enrollment, special education or other legal rights.

Success of this program led to the forming of a statewide Supreme Court committee to improve educational stability and outcomes of children and youth who are in the child protection system in Ohio. Key KISR! Leadership members serve on this committee to provide insight based on their experiences through this program.

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI)

Crossover Youth Practice Model

Juvenile Court Management System (JCMS) development, installation, and use of JCMS (a state-of-the-art dependency case tracking system to measure court performance and data tracking of initiatives)

One Family-One Magistrate

Differential response

Permanency roundtable

Representation of all parties at every stage of the process

Generation of detailed court orders from the bench


Time-certain, direct calendaring process

Involvement of the development of the Dependency Docket Bench Cards for Ohio Family and Juvenile Court Judges and Magistrates

Development of the Ohio Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Law: A Practice Manual for Attorneys in Hamilton County

Current Goals

NATIONAL GOAL:  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance & Tribal Engagement

The Cincinnati Mentor Model Court continues to make every effort to improve ICWA compliance by inquiring about Native heritage.  Introduced by a Model Court Liaison, in 2011, the Cincinnati Model Court worked closely with Tribal Judge Cheryl Fairbanks who represents the Havasupai Tribe on an ICWA case in Ohio. This was a great opportunity to engage with a Native tribe across state lines. 

STATE GOAL:  State-wide Implementation of the Best Practices

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Children, Families & the Courts programs continues to implement best and promising practices statewide. In 2005 and 2008, it partnered with the NCJFCJ to bring two jurisdictions to the Model Courts Project as contract Model Courts. Many initiatives born out of the Cincinnati Model Court have been implemented statewide. Ohio also holds its annual Children’s Summit to bring multidisciplinary teams from across the state.

LOCAL GOAL:  Educational Well-Being

See the section of Kids In School Rule! (KISR!)