Federal Court Improvement Program
The Court Improvement Program is a federal grant program administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families. The program was established in 1994 as a response to the dramatic increase in child abuse and neglect cases and the expanded role of courts in achieving stable, permanent homes for children in foster care. Funds were awarded to State Supreme Courts to assess their foster care and adoption laws and judicial processes, and to develop and implement a plan for system improvements.
The Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 1997, 2001 and 2006 extended the Court Improvement Program through federal fiscal year 2011. The Amendment also expanded the scope of the program to (1) include improvements that the highest courts deem necessary to provide for the safety, well-being and permanency of children in foster care, as set forth in the Adoption and Safe Families Act; and (2) implement a corrective action plan, as necessary, in response to findings identified in a child and family service review of the State’s child welfare system.
In 2005, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 authorized two new Court Improvement Program grants, one for data collection and analysis to help ensure that foster children’s needs for safety, permanency and well-being are being met in a timely and appropriate manner and another grant to provide training for judges, attorneys and other legal personnel in child welfare cases. Currently, all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico participate in the Court Improvement Program.
In 1995, Indiana’s Court Improvement Program conducted a comprehensive study of the roles, responsibilities, and effectiveness of the state’s judicial system in handling child abuse and neglect cases. The results of the assessment were published in 1997 in The Indiana Court Improvement Project Phase One Final Report.
The report concluded that the following goals aimed at improving Indiana’s adjudication of cases involving child abuse and neglect should be pursued:
In 2005, Indiana’s Court Improvement Program conducted a reassessment of the effectiveness of the judicial system’s handling of child abuse cases, and to determine how the Court Improvement Program has influenced and improved the courts’ treatment of child abuse and neglect cases. The results of the 2005 reassessment were published in 2005 in The Indiana Court Improvement Program Reassessment Final Report.
The reassessment report concluded that the goal of putting child abuse and neglect (CHINS) cases on a “fast track” should continue to be emphasized. Other recommendations include:
Since 1996, the Court Improvement program Executive Committee has provided sub-grants to support programs or projects that (1) are designed to improve the court process for handling child abuse and neglect proceedings; (2) provide for the safety, well-being and permanency of children in foster care; (3) provide training and education to judges, court staff, attorneys and other stakeholders involved in the child welfare system and (4) for data collection and analysis to help ensure that foster children’s needs for safety, permanency and well-being are being met in a timely and appropriate manner. Examples of funded programs or projects include: