Washington Workload Site Assessment: Spokane

May 15, 2012

By Alicia Summers, Ph.D., Steve Wood, MS, Jennifer McClellan, Jesse Russell, Ph.D.

Background

In partnership with the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts, the NCJFCJ conducted a judicial workload assessment in Washington State. The assessment identified Spokane County as having adequate judicial resources to meet current workload demands and conduct thorough hearings. Spokane utilizes a unique one family, one judge team approach to dependency cases and has implemented other best practices such as time-certain calendaring, early appointment of counsel, a strict “no continuance” policy, and family team decision meetings (FTDMs).

Summary

A systematic review of 72 case files explored timeliness, parent engagement, and case outcomes in Spokane. The majority of fact-finding cases were conducted within federal and state statutory guidelines. More than 91 percent of review and permanency planning hearings were timely. Mothers in compliance with the court ordered case plan and present at the majority of hearings were significantly more likely to be reunified with their child. When removed from the home, the majority of cases resulted in family reunification or placement with the non-charged parent. Conducting FTDMs prior to the shelter care hearing resulted in more family placements and achievement of case resolution faster than cases with no early FTDM.

Implications

Courts with adequate judicial resources may be better equipped to implement best practices such as a “no continuance” policy, time-certain calendaring, early appointment of counsel, and a one family, one judge model. In turn, these practices may encourage levels of parent engagement, reduce workload for judicial officers and stakeholders, and allow children to be returned to their homes sooner.

For the full report please click here.

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