Congressional leaders, federal agencies, and private foundations have recognized the need for a national effort dedicated to improving court practice in child abuse and neglect and juvenile delinquency cases. Since 1992, NCJFCJ’s Model Courts Project, with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and private court contracts, has partnered with courts across the country to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children, juvenile offenders and their families.
The Model Courts Project supports juvenile courts in a number of key ways. The acclaimed NCJFCJ bench books the Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse & Neglect Cases, the Adoption And Permanency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, and the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Juvenile Delinquency Cases provide a recommended practice approach to improving court processes. The Model Courts Project works to identify impediments to the timeliness of court events and delivery of services for families and children and then design and implement court- and agency-based changes to address these barriers. The NCJFCJ’s work with Model Courts and other jurisdictions seeking assistance to improve outcomes for children and families is guided by the Key Principles for Permanency Planning for Children and Key Principles for Juvenile Delinquency Cases. As part of this effort, judicial leadership and effective collaboration are viewed as essential for project success.
Courts that are active in the Model Courts Project may receive individualized assessment, planning, training, technical assistance, and evaluation services as they seek to implement the principles and recommendations set forth in the Guidelines and work toward improved practice and outcomes. With multi-year involvement, Model Courts repeat the planning and technical assistance process as court improvement goals are attained. As part of this effort, Model Courts are expected to be “laboratories for change”; meaning they participate in an ongoing critical assessment of their performance and share their results with other sites in order to inform and sustain a larger system improvement effort.
Model Courts that have experienced significant improvement in practice, have institutionalized training programs, and have developed a strong, proactive collaborative process of reform can ascend to Mentor, Statewide, or Project ONE Status to demonstrate leadership in implementing statewide systems change reform efforts and coordinated court systems.
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