Indianapolis Mentor Model Court

Brief History

The Marion Superior Juvenile Court Juvenile Division joined the Model Courts Project in 1999 as the Indianapolis Model Court.  Except for her 11-month tour of duty in Afghanistan for the Indiana Army National Guard as Colonel in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Hon. Marilyn Moores has been the Model Court Lead Judge since 2005.  During Judge Moore’s assignment in Afghanistan, Chief Magistrate Gary Chavers served as Judge Pro Tem and Model Court Lead Judge.  In 2011, the Indianapolis Model Court became a Mentor Court. 

The Indianapolis Model Court has six judicial officers responsible for hearing dependency cases.  It uses a committee structure to provide leadership to the Model Court: one large committee, Permanency Planning, and four standing committees, Court Process, Family Engagement, Child Outcomes, and Courts Catalyzing Change.  In addition to all judicial officers on the dependency bench, members of the Model Court include court staff (Director of the Best Practices Group, Court Mediator for CHINS, IT), the Director of Guardian ad litem (GAL)/Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Agency, the Director and Assistant Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), the Chief Legal Counsel and Deputy Counsel of DCS, the Deputy Director of the Public Defender, Juvenile, Agency, and the Deputy Chief for Juvenile Probation.

Leadership

Current Lead Judge:  Judge Marilyn Moores

Court website – www.indy.gov

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1.  Timely Justice and Representation for Children

The Indianapolis Model Court set timely justice in TPR cases and providing children with representation/increasing their engagement as priorities for best practice implementation.  The Court Collaborative successfully eliminated the backlog of TPR cases by increasing judicial staff.  It also reduced the waitlist for GALs by increasing the number of GALs/CASAs in attendance and appointed at the Initial Hearing.  The practices of having GALs involved early in each case and of requiring youth 14 years and older to attend Initial Hearings are leading to faster engagement of children.

2.  Mediation Program

To incorporate the best practice of ADR, the Indianapolis Model Court implemented a mediation program for children in need of services (CHINS) cases.  It established mandatory facilitated settlement conferences for all CHINS cases set for contested fact-finding.  The process has led to shorter closure times for mediated cases and achieved 85% reunification through dismissal, informal adjustment or reunification with parents.

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Undoing Racism and Implicit Bias Trainings

Children In Court (increasing number of children attending hearings by lowering age of attendance and participation to children 10 and older)

Training on Trauma Informed Practices

Family Handbook

Current Goals

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

The Indianapolis Model Court is working on relationship building with the Pokagan Band of Potawatomi Indians, Tribal Chief Judge Michael Petoskey and his tribal court staff.  Communication and exchange include cross-site visiting. 

In CHINS cases, Model Court judicial officers are using the NCJFCJ Technical Brief, “Indian Child Welfare Act Checklist” to help promote ICWA compliance. At the Initial Hearing, the judge or magistrate asks each family member present of possible tribal associations.

STATE GOAL: Statewide Implementation of Best Practices

The Indiana CIP has assisted implementing the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process piloted in Indianapolis Model Court uses into CHINS cases in three other counties.  Additionally, on an annual basis, the Court Improvement Project (CIP) provides new and continuing judicial officers handling CHINS cases with training on the Resource Guidelines and on ICWA, with the Model Courts Project Lead Judge serving as training faculty.

LOCAL GOAL:  Child Well-Being

The Indianapolis Model Court has two initiatives underway to improve child-well being.  One concerns increasing parenting time, the other concerns education.  

The Model Court’s Family Engagement Committee has been working with the child welfare agency and a fathers’ group to revise parenting time guidelines to help increase the quantity and quality of parenting time.

Additionally, the Model Court is promoting the educational well-being of children in foster care by working with former educators and GALs to offer educational advocacy.  The Individual Education Plan (IEP) process can be a complex process to navigate for foster parents and birth parents of children in foster care.  Trained educators are being enlisted by the child welfare department and the Court as educational advocates for school-aged foster youth.  Begun as a pilot project in the Indianapolis Model Court, this Foster Education Initiative is now being expanded statewide.