Child welfare agencies and legal and judicial communities have many common goals and a history of collaboration intended to improve outcomes for children and families. The Federal Court Improvement Program provides funds to State and Tribal courts to improve child welfare and court partnerships, address systemic barriers, and promote equitable practices. 

It’s important that all children and youth, biological families, foster or kin caregivers, and trained parent advocates attend court proceedings and are authentically engaged in decision-making. Quality legal representation for children, youth, and families is an important aspect of equitable practice to address disproportionality and disparities because it amplifies the voices of children and youth, protects parent’s and children’s rights, and improves the timeliness of parent-child and sibling visitation as well as permanency.

Child welfare cases are legal cases between a child welfare agency—or a prosecutor—and a parent, parents, or guardian, but they are not criminal cases. The purpose of court hearings is to determine whether children and youth are safe, not to prosecute parents or guardians. Authentic engagement and collaborations among child welfare agencies, the legal and judicial communities, and families can improve outcomes and experiences.

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