The Vermont Juvenile Court Improvement Program seeks to improve outcomes for children in foster care or who are at risk of being removed from home. The program does this by proposing changes to how courts process juvenile abuse and neglect cases and adoption cases. The program's goals are to help ensure children's safety and well-being and to help children find safe, permanent homes.
The Vermont Juvenile Court Improvement Program is a federally funded program that seeks to enhance the court's role in achieving stable, permanent homes for children who are abused or neglected. The program proposes and evaluates changes in how courts process juvenile abuse and neglect cases as well as adoption cases.
The program provides training for judges, public defenders, prosecutors, and court employees. It also helps pay the costs of developing, implementing, and evaluating improvements to how the courts process cases in the juvenile docket.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the federal agency that administers the Juvenile Court Improvement Program nationwide. HHS does this through the Children's Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families. Within Vermont, the Court Administrator's Office, Division of Planning and Court Services, administers the Vermont Juvenile Court Improvement Program.
The program's goal is to ensure children's safety, permanency, and well-being through effective court proceedings.
As noted on the federal government's Child Welfare Information Gateway:
Permanency in child welfare can have different meanings depending on the child, family, and case circumstances. Child welfare professionals first focus on supporting and stabilizing a family to prevent an initial placement. Reunification with family is the preferred outcome for children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. When children must be removed from their families to ensure their safety, permanency planning efforts focus on returning them home as soon as is safely possible or placing them with another legally permanent family. Other permanent families may include relatives, adoptive families who obtain legal custody, or guardians. Permanency also includes maintaining or establishing meaningful connections with other caring adults in the child's life (relational permanency) with family, friends, and connections to the community.
Child welfare refers to the broad range of services designed to ensure that children are safe and that families have the support they need to care for their children successfully. For more information about child welfare, please see this resource from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
The Vermont Juvenile Court Improvement Program works to:
- Improve the timeliness of court proceedings to terminate parental rights
- Improve the timeliness and quality of Probate Division adoption finalization hearings for children in the child welfare system
- Identify and implement efficiencies in processing abuse/neglect cases
- Improve the quality of court data
- Continue collaboration between the Judiciary, the Department for Children and Families, and other partners in the child welfare system
- Promote high-quality legal representation
- Ensure that judges and court personnel are knowledgeable and prepared to work with child welfare cases
- Ensure that volunteer guardians ad litem who advocate in juvenile proceedings are adequately trained and supervised
Click here to see a flowchart of how child welfare cases move through the court system.
In 2005 the Vermont Supreme Court created the Justice for Children Task Force to bring together leaders from the executive branch, the judicial branch, and the legislative branch, as well as other key partners, to find solutions to improve outcomes for children in foster care. The Justice for Children Task Force provides a framework for decision makers to overcome barriers that cause children to remain in foster care longer than necessary. The task force works closely with the Court Improvement Program to develop and implement the program's strategic plan and monitor progress.
Chief Justice Paul Reiber chairs the Justice for Children Task Force.
For more information about the Justice for Children Task Force and its roster, click link to right.
In 1995 Congress created the State Court Improvement Program (CIP) in response to concerns that children spent too long in foster care. Through this program, the federal government provides grants to state court systems. With this funding, state judiciaries develop and implement plans to improve the safety and well-being of children in foster care. These plans typically include proposals designed to achieve "permanence" as quickly as possible.
For more information about the Vermont Juvenile Court Improvement Program, please contact Programs Manager Shari Young