The ABA Center on Children and the Law is excited to share that the Family Justice Initiative (FJI) website has launched! The FJI is comprised of a diverse team of partners located throughout the country who are working collaboratively with, the ABA Center on Children and the Law, Children's Law Center of California, the Center for Family Representation, and Casey Family Programs to ensure that every child and every parent has high-quality legal representation when child welfare courts make life-changing decisions about their families. The website is an informative and interactive way to share important information, updates, and resources with child welfare practitioners across the country. Visit the FJI website to learn how you can become a part of the movement!<>

For more information: 

Mimi Laver

Director, Legal Representation

ABA Center on Children and the Law

1050 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 400

Washington, DC 20036


Access to Justice for Children and Families [sigline-register now (002)]

Published in Parents' Attorneys


January 30, 2019

Overcoming Barriers to Making Meaningful Reasonable Efforts Findings
by Judge Leonard Edwards, ret.*

Certain changes in juvenile court practice can lead to more meaningful reasonable efforts findings. Granted, there are many barriers that prevent judges from making these findings. This article explains what reasonable efforts findings the judge must make, some of the most challenging barriers that prevent the judge from making these findings, and a solution that could make reasonable efforts findings more meaningful.

Understanding Reasonable Efforts
“Reasonable efforts” findings are judicial rulings that the child welfare agency (the agency) has or has not provided appropriate services at different times during a child welfare case. According to federal and state laws judges must make reasonable efforts findings at least three distinct times during the case.[1]

The judge must make:

  1. a finding that the social worker provided reasonable efforts (services/interventions) to prevent removal of the child from parental care;
  2. findings that during the reunification period, the social worker provided reasonable efforts (meaningful services) to promote reunification between the parents and their child; and
  1. reasonable efforts findings that the social worker has taken steps to make and finalize alternate permanency plans for each foster child in a timely fashion.[2] The permanent plan could be with parents, a legal guardian, a relative, or an adoptive home.

View the full article. This information is published in the ABA Child Law Practice Today. This is an online resource, click here for this issue and archived issues.


[1] Social Security Act §§471(a)(15), 472(a)(1), 42 U.S.C.A. §§671(a)(15), 672(a)(1)(West Supp. 1981).
[2] 42 U.S.C. §§672(a)(2)(A)(ii); 45 C.F.R. §1356.21(b)(2)(2006).

 This information is published in the ABA Child Law Practice Today. This is an online resource, click here for this issue and archived issues.

Benchcards for Judicial Safety Decision Making

These benchcards were published as an accompanying tool to the book Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys. They are also referred to during the Safety Decision Making course presented by the Pelican Center for Children and Families - Court Improvement Program training.  The book can be accessed online. Click hereAuthors: Theresa Roe Lund MSSW and Jennifer L. Renne  Date: 2009

Published in Home Page

We want to share this quick 5-minute overview with you about the Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys that was co-authored by Jennifer Renne and Theresa Roe-Lund. We use this textbook and the bench cards in our Safety Decision Making courses that we host in Louisiana. We offer a one-hour webinar and a 6 hour class periodically. Click for the video link.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 15:03

Introduction to "The Safety Guide"

We want to share this quick 5-minute overview with you about the Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys that was co-authored by Jennifer Renne and Theresa Roe-Lund. We use this textbook and the bench cards in our Safety Decision Making courses that we host in Louisiana. We offer a one-hour webinar and a 6 hour class periodically. Click for the video link.

Published in Home Page

Collateral consequences are legal disabilities imposed by law that result from a criminal conviction. The laws that spawn these collateral consequences can create social and economic barriers for those with criminal convictions. They are known to adversely affect adoptions, housing, welfare, immigration, employment, professional licensure, property rights, mobility, and other opportunities open to others. The NICCC is a tool that enables responsible prosecutors, defense counsel, and judges to be aware of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and to consider whether conviction for particular offenses results in unfair or unintended consequences and whether there are dispositions that would avoid such consequences. It also enables every state and the federal government to take a fresh look at the mass of collateral consequences that have developed over decades and then determine whether some should be eliminated, modified, or clarified. Before the creation of the NICCC, personnel central to case dispositions could not readily determine the extent to which collateral consequences deny those who have completed sentences opportunities for education, housing, and employment. The focus should be on restricting collateral consequences to only those proven necessary for public safety.

This report presents the features and purposes of the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC), which was developed by the American Bar Association to make accessible to criminal justice personnel and the general public the sanctions and disqualifications that flow from a criminal conviction but are not part of the actual sentence filed in a criminal case.

American Bar Association, United States of America

Link to document.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recently passed resolutions and policy statements on how to improve the lives of youth and families involved with juvenile or family courts. The resolutions address the needs of homeless youth and families, support a developmental approach to juvenile probation, and recognize the need for independent oversight of youth confinement facilities. The Council also released two bench cards: one with guidance on working with youth regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and one on applying principles of adolescent development in delinquency proceedings. In addition, the Council released a guide of principles and practices addressing custody and visitation.

Published in Home Page

The US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and Office for Civil Rights have compiled documents that provide guidance to ensure that child welfare agencies and state court systems are aware of their responsibilities to protect the civil rights of children and families in the child welfare system. The attached documents will address policy for Title VI, Disabilities, and Disproportionality issues.

Determining if a Child is Safe

The basic and most important determination judges make in child in need of care cases is whether a child(ren) is safe. Critical safety decisions are made when removing a child and determining whether a child should return home. However, without a comprehensive decision-making structure and thorough inquiry, decisions can lead to over and under removal, leaving children unsafe or returning them home too quickly. 

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has implemented a research-based, structured safety assessment process designed to avoid these problems. It is the responsibility of all individuals involved in a case to understand the goal of child safety, the terminology used when discussing safety, and the type of information needed to make good decisions about child safety.

This bulletin was developed in 2016 by the Pelican Center for Children and Families with assistance from ABA Center for Children and the Law and the Pelican Center/Louisiana Child Welfare Training Academy Training and Education Committee members. Please download and share!


Published in Law and Best Practices
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES REVIEWS: How Judges, Court Administrators and Attorneys Should Be Involved 
The Children’s Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families conducts Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) in all States periodically to ensure conformity with Federal child welfare requirements, to gauge the experiences of children, youth, and families receiving State child welfare services, and to assist States in helping children families achieve positive outcomes.
The first two rounds of the CFSR were completed in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia between 2001 and 2010, and the third round will take place between 2015 and 2018.
This paper provides:
•An introduction to CFSRs,
•An explanation of why CFSRs are important to maintaining the momentum of court improvement efforts, and
•Specific suggestions for how courts can become involved in CFSRs.

Click to read the full document.

Page 1 of 2