The NCJFCJ’s annual training for dependency court judges, the Child Abuse and Neglect Institute (CANI), provides instruction for new or experienced judges on the knowledge and skills necessary to preside over an effective child abuse and neglect court process as well as instruction on emerging and promising practices to improve outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.
The research summarized in this report examines whether judges’ participation in the Institute positively impacts their actual on-the-bench judicial practice. Judges’ pre-CANI and post-CANI preliminary protective hearings (PPH) were coded and analyzed to determine if there were any positive changes in their on-the-bench PPH practice after their participation in CANI. Results found several statistically significant positive improvements in PPH practice post-CANI: judges increased their engagement of the mother; increased their use of specific engagement strategies with the father; increased their level of judicial inquiry of issues overall as well as level of discussion of specific issues; and were more likely to make clear, verbal reasonable efforts on the record.
The results of this CANI evaluation demonstrate that judicial behavior on the bench changes post-CANI in a positive way. These results build upon and support earlier evaluations of CANI examining judges’ decision-making behavior via case scenarios.