Working with the Courts in Child Protection
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Jones, William G.|
|Year Published: 2006|
Purpose and Overview
The courts play a central role in making decisions regarding the protection of children who have been maltreated. Understanding this process is crucial for any professional involved in child protection. By having a thorough knowledge of this legal process and by working in partnership with the courts, child protective services (CPS) caseworkers and other professionals can work toward the safety, permanency, and well-being of children more effectively.
Child maltreatment cases are handled in a variety of courts. Thus, the rules and procedures that govern these cases may differ depending on the type of proceeding within which an allegation of abuse is brought, the laws governing the court involved, and the local practice in a particular court.
In recent years, a number of reforms have addressed the unique nature of child maltreatment and the special needs of its victims. Both legislative and judicial efforts have improved the ability and flexibility of the courts to respond to allegations of abuse or neglect. Courts now have more alternatives and resources with which to work when faced with a case where abuse or neglect has been established by the required burden of proof under State law.This manual provides the basic information needed by CPS caseworkers to work successfully with the courts. It introduces concepts and terminology associated with the courts, describes the key court processes, and presents practical information to help caseworkers prepare for what can be an overwhelming experience. The manual describes:
- The general or common court system;
- The powers of the court and the rights of parents and children in child maltreatment cases;
- The interplay between child maltreatment legislation and caseworker practice;
- The juvenile court process;
- The criminal court process;
- Domestic relations and other court proceedings;
- The issues involved in going to court;
- The relationship between CPS caseworkers and the court;
- Court improvement and best practices.
Appendices to this manual include a glossary, resource listings, and guidelines for CPS caseworkers for permanency and review hearings.
Various terms are used within the field and throughout communities to describe CPS agencies and caseworkers, including:
- CPS agency:
- Department of Social Services
- Child welfare agency
- Social services
- Family services
- CPS caseworker:
- Social worker
- Social caseworker
In many settings, there is little or no distinction among these terms. For the sake of clarity and ease of understanding, this manual primarily uses "CPS" and "CPS caseworker."
One note of caution is necessary. On its own, this manual cannot adequately prepare any professional, legal or nonlegal, to practice in the area of child protection. Consultation with a skilled legal specialist is critical, as is comprehensive training on working with the courts, particularly with respect to unique State laws and local practices.
Information and suggestions incorporated throughout this manual do not necessarily imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or official interpretation of Federal requirements.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.