New Hampshire Statewide Model Court

 

Brief History

Concord, New Hampshire joined the Model Courts Project in 2008, following an open call for applications.  The close relationship between the court and the state Court Improvement Project (CIP) led to the court being reclassified as a Statewide Model Court in 2012.  Reform efforts, such as children in court, are pilot-tested first in the Concord Model Court before being released to the rest of the state.  The Statewide Model Court Executive Committee, which includes the CIP Director, guides courts around the state as they implement systems change.  There are two judges who officially preside over the Model Court and hear all types of juvenile cases: dependency, juvenile justice, children in need of services (CHINS), and guardianship.  One full-time judge and one part-time judge.   In addition to the Lead Judges and the CIP Director, the Executive Committee includes leadership from the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), CASA of New Hampshire, Family Court staff, private attorneys, and attorneys for the Division of Children Youth and Families.

Leadership

Current Lead Judge:  Judge Ed Gordon

Past Lead Judge:  Judge Susan Carbon, Past President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)

Court Website - http://www.courts.state.nh.us/district/about.htm and  http://www.courts.state.nh.us/courtlocations/fammerrdir.htm#franklin

In the News

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1.  Children & Youth in Court

In 2010, the Franklin and Concord Model Court Project committed to providing children and youth an opportunity to participate in post-adjudicatory court hearings involving their parents. This commitment is consistent with positions taken by both the NCJFCJ and American Bar Association. As a result, the Model Court developed new protocols, encouraging and supporting children and youth to attend court hearings or, alternatively, to participate in court hearings by submitting a letter, drawing and/or photograph to the court through their CASA or guardians ad litem (GAL).  The protocols outline the responsibility of all players in facilitating attendance, preparing youth for what to expect, and debriefing with youth about their experience. It is expected that the participation of children and youth will result in better outcomes, both in terms of their permanency and well-being.  Beginning in July 2011, draft protocols were piloted in the Franklin and Concord courts for all current and new dependency cases. The Model Court Children and Youth Protocol Committee met for a year to develop “best practices” that are intended to further children and youth having a positive and personally meaningful experience in court – beyond merely appearing at hearings.

The participation of children and youth in court, consistent with those protocols, was evaluated for over six months. The evaluations completed by court users provided insight about the experience of having children and youth attend court hearings and about the value of their participation and impact on judges and stakeholders. It also helped identify challenges in the process that could be resolved by the various stakeholders.  The feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive, has been incorporated into the 2012 Children and Youth in Court Protocols and the evaluation is ongoing.  The court’s surveys and protocol are available to courts interested in taking on a similar initiative. 

2.  Greenbook Implementation

Prior to becoming a Model Court, New Hampshire was selected as a Greenbook Demonstration Site.  In 1999, the NCJFCJ published Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. This publication, commonly referred to as “the Greenbook” due to its green cover, is intended to help child welfare, domestic violence service providers and family courts work together more effectively to serve families experiencing violence by improving policies and practices and developing enhanced coordination among courts and social service agencies. The primary activities of the project in New Hampshire included developing system specific practice guides and protocols; enhancing the Domestic Violence Specialist Project through training, policy development and standardization of practice; structured multi-disciplinary practice/philosophical discussions; cross-system training; training on working with men who batter, and other topics designed to enhance understanding and practice across the disciplines; setting up a process for case reviews within DCYF and sustainability planning.  More information on the Greenbook and resources from the demonstration sites can be found at www.thegreenbook.info

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Development of TPR and adoption protocols

Courts Catalyzing Change training

Forming and sustaining a multidisciplinary collaborative

Current Goals

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

The Lead Judge attended the December, 2011 Lead Judges’ meeting.  During this meeting and in meetings with his Model Court Executive Committee, Judge Gordon expressed the importance of “cultural permanency.”  While the Model Court jurisdiction does not include a large number of Native Americans, Native American children are overrepresented in foster care across the state and the Model Court will lead efforts in this area. 

STATE GOAL:  Statewide Implementation of Best Practice

As a Statewide Model Court, the goals of the court and those of the state are aligned.  For each goal, the Model Court Executive Committee creates a statewide roll-out strategy that includes training, technical assistance, and protocol development. 

LOCAL GOAL: Child Well-Being:

In addition to increasing the number of children and youth in court, the Model Court is finalizing extensive protocols for handling cases of older youth who do not wish to be adopted.  One of the key strategies is to find a way to get a youth connected to a caring adult and ensure that this relationship provides support to the youth as they prepare to exit care and after they exit care.  The protocols will be piloted in the Model Court for a 6 month period.  This work follows policy changes made by the child welfare agency whereby Alternative Permanency Placement and Living Arrangements (APPLA) is recommended in a much smaller number of cases than in the past.  This will be completed statewide in September 2013.