Dependency Courts Resource Guide

Through the collaboration of courts and child-welfare agencies, improvements in dependency courts to implement promising practices such as performance measures to improve accountability, enhance and increase the legal representation of children and their parents, improve caseflow management, and strengthening the management information systems is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of neglected and abused children.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Featured Resources

  • Every Kid Deserves a Family: Safely Reducing Reliance on Group Home Placements for Children in the Child Welfare System. (2017). The purpose of this NCSC judicial toolkit is to assist judges, attorneys, and advocates in making better decisions regarding the placement of children to ensure the lease restrictive and most family-like placement possible for each child under court jurisdiction.
  • Child Welfare Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects 2012-2014. The federal Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act ( P.L. 112-34), which was signed into law on September 30, 2011, reauthorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve new Child Welfare Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Projects. The Waiver reauthorization does not provide additional funding. Instead, it allows more flexible use of federal Title IV-E funds to test new service delivery and financing approaches to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system. HHS may approve up to 10 projects per year in federal fiscal years 2012 to 2014. See the Court Fact Sheet for more information.
  • FAQs related to Title IV-E Waivers. Allowing for more flexible use of Federal funds in order to test new approaches to service delivery and financing structures in child welfare, IV-E Waivers can increase service availability and support court functions.   This document sets forth how Courts can give voice to systemic needs and support a waiver application and answers Frequently Asked Questions (hyperlinked).

Dependency Court Reforms

  • Enhanced Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases. (2016). National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. These guidelines, updated 20 years after the original publication, serve as the NCJFC's blueprint for training on child abuse and neglect practices and covers all stages of the court process, from the preliminary protective hearing until juvenile and family court involvement has ended.
  • Sydow, Nora and Richard Van Duizend. Strategies for Effective Statewide Commissions on the Protection of Children. National Center for State Courts. This report presents findings and recommendations from a study of statewide judicial commissions on the protection of children.
  • Goldman, Jill, and Marsha K. Salus. A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice. (2003). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children`s Bureau. This publication defines the scope of the problem, identifies contributing factors, and discusses consequences and prevention. It also discusses the laws and policies to guide public intervention, who should be involved at the community level, and how organizations can work together to protect children.
  • Court-Child Welfare Agency Collaboration Tools and Resources. Child Welfare Information Gateway. This Web page provides links to several resources on court/child-welfare-agency collaboration, including several state and local examples.
  • Flango, Victor et al. Emergency Preparedness in Dependency Courts: Ten Questions that Courts Serving Abused and Neglected Children Must Address. The NCSC has produced this Web publication on issues to consider during times of crisis that will promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of abused and neglected children.
  • National Court Improvement Progress Report and Catalog. This database, maintained by the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues, contains state-by-state information on the progress of court improvement projects.  Users can find reports and information on child and family services.  State summary information goes back to 2003.
  • DiPietro, Susanne. Evaluating the Court Process for Alaska's Children in Need of Aid. Justice System Journal. The study described in this article was undertaken by the Alaska Court System's Child in Need of Aid Court Improvement Committee in 2005. The study described the Alaska Court System's handling of child protection cases, compared that situation to findings from two earlier assessments, and discussed the court's performance in the context of applicable state and federal case-processing standards, including timeliness, efficiency, fairness, treatment of parties, and quality of proceedings. (Vol. 29, No. 2).
  • Adoption and Permanency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases. (Fall 2000). National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. This publication discusses the need for guidelines, the purpose of the guidelines and key principles for permanency planning, termination of parental rights, and the appeals process.
  • Court Improvement and Best Practices. (2006). (Chapter 9)  Working with the Courts in Child Protection User Manual Series, Children`s Bureau. This chapter provides an overview of the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) and the courts and information about best practices and model court programs throughout the country. It also provides information about the importance of judicial leadership in improving court practice.
  • Family Court Performance Standards and Measures. (1999). Adopted by the Family Court of the State of Delaware. Delaware took the Trial Court Performance Standards and adopted them to family court (which has juvenile-court jurisdiction in Delaware).
  • Flango, Carol R., Flango, Victor E., and H. Ted Rubin. How Are Courts Coordinating Family Cases?. (1999). Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts. This publication covers the one-family/one-judge concept, court-centered coordination of family support services, which coordination mechanisms work most effectively, and the creation of a family-focused court.
  • Justice for Children: Changing Lives by Changing Systems -- A Call to Action. (September 2005). National Judicial Leadership Summit on the Protection of Children, National Center for State Courts. This report describes four main strategies for improving outcomes for children, provides an analysis of state action plans, and provides examples of several promising initiatives.
  • Making the Court System Work Better for Children: 25 Things Your Court Can Do. (January 2001). Judicial Council of California, Center for Families, Children and the Courts. This publication describes 25 different examples of programs or services that courts can incorporate to make the court system work better for children. Each example describes its importance, the resources needed to implement, the ease of replication, and examples of model courts.
  • Millennium 2000 Conference: Launching Improved Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases into the Next Century -- Report and Results. (2000). National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges . Conference work products include the results of four working groups and well as the text from a presentation by Chief Justice Judith S. Kaye of New York on strategies and needs for systems change to improve court practice for the new millennium.
  • The National Evaluation of the Court Improvement Program. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This site describes the many paths followed by state courts to improve their oversight of foster-care and adoption cases and to analyze the outcomes achieved. It also provides the field with important information on effective models for juvenile and family court reform.
  • Resource Guidelines: Improving Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases. (1995). Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges: Publications Development Committee, Victim of Child Abuse Project. These resource guidelines set forth the essential elements of properly conducted court hearings. The guidelines describe the requirements of juvenile and family courts in fulfilling the role now placed upon them by federal and state laws. These guidelines also describe how court calendars can be efficiently managed to achieve efficiency and avoid delays; explain the court staffing and organization necessary to make the judicial process run smoothly; and clarify costs associated with such reforms.
  • The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. Provides links to reports, research, and recommendations for reform. See especially, Fostering the Future: Safety, Permanence and Well-Being for Children in Foster Care

Educational Success and Stability

Family Drug Treatment Courts

  • Young, N.K., Breitenbucher, P., & Pfeifer, J. Guidance to States: Recommendations for Developing Family Drug Court Guidelines. (2013). Prepared for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by Children and Family Futures, along with the National Drug Court Institute and with Federal, State, and other stakeholders to offer guidelines to "help states and programs create systems changes that will have a lasting impact on Family Drug Courts (FDCs), the policies of courts and child welfare and treatment service systems, and community‚Äźbased organizations serving parents, children, and families. This document provides guidance for implementing an FDC, including the development of FDC partnerships and a common vocabulary for describing FDC components, with a focus on improving services to families who are involved with the child welfare system and are affected by substance use disorders."
  • Wheeler, Meghan M. and Carson L. Fox, Jr. Drug Court Practitioner Fact Sheet: Family Dependency Treatment Court: Applying the Drug Court Model in Child Maltreatment Cases. (June 2006). National Drug Court Institute. This Practitioner Fact Sheet provides useful information and research on family dependency treatment courts.
  • Family Dependency Treatment Courts: Addressing Child Abuse and Neglect Cases Using the Drug Court Model. (December 2004). National Drug Court Institute and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. This publication discusses issues surrounding Family Dependency Treatment Courts (FDTCs) brought up in a 1999 focus group of teams from some of the most well established FDTCs, including Kansas City (MO), Reno (NV), San Diego (CA) and Suffolk County (NY).
  • Family Dependency Treatment Courts State-By-State Links. This National Center for State Courts resource provides state-by-state links to family dependency treatment courts.

ICWA eNotice

Infants and Toddlers

Involving Children and Parents

  • Hon. Bobbe J. Bridge Involving Youth in the Dependency Court Process: The Washington State Experience. Family Court Review, Vol. 48 No. 2, April 284–293. (2010). This article discusses Washington state's Dependent Youth Interview Project, a pilot program for judicial officers to interview dependent youth, twelve years or older, during dependency hearings for the purpose of determining the youth's wishes.
  • Children in Court Study. Through the Eyes of the Child, Nebraska Supreme Court.
  • The University of Nebraska's Center on Children, Families, and the Law completed a study that assessed children's perceptions regarding their participation in the court process, and explored the impact of children's participation on the court process.
  • The ABA Youth Engagement Project. This ABA project provides training and technical assistance to assist judges, attorneys and other stakeholders with involving youth in court hearings and case planning.
  • How Children`s Voices are Heard in Child Protective Proceedings. (2005). Representing Children Worldwide, Yale Law School. Representing Children Worldwide is a 2005 survey conducted by the Yale Law School that examined the legal provisions of 194 countries and 56 states concerning how children's voices are heard in child protective proceedings.  The results of this survey are available on an interactive Web site.  Also found on the site are summary tables comparing the U.S. states as well as countries worldwide.
  • Involving Children in Dependency Court Hearings. (March 2007). Promising Practices Series, Children`s Bureau Express, Administration for Children and Families 8, no. 2. State-by-State Summary of Youth Involvement in Court.(June 2009). American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law This summary examines every state dependency statute and court rule to determine whether a child 1) is considered a party, 2) is entitled to notice of proceedings, and 3) has a right to be present during proceedings.

IT Systems and Data Exchange

  • Flango, Victor E. Extending Court Case Management Systems: The Need for Data Exchange. (Spring 2008). Unified Family Court Connection. This article addresses collaboration between courts and child welfare and explains how sharing electronic data can improve outcomes for children in the child protection system.
  • Juvenile Functional Standards -- V1.0. (2003). Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts. This report explains the need for national functional standards for case management in juvenile proceedings and presents the functional standards created by the joint COSCA/NACM committee.
  • Ohio Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System. Dynamics Research Cooperation. This Web site highlights the success of the automated Ohio program, which provides timely and consistent information to all state workers as they strive to support and improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families.
  • Strengthening Abuse and Neglect Courts in America: Management Information Systems (SANCA MIS) Project. National Center for State Courts, ABA Center for Children and the Law, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. This document provides an overview of this project, including functional standards and automated performance measurement.
  • Memorandum of Understanding. (2009). A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts and the Utah Department of Human Services regarding establishing an interface between their management information systems.

Judicial Guides Checklists and Tools

  • Family Court Tool Kit: Trauma and Child Development. (2015). Several Florida Supreme Court steering committees and the Office of Court Improvement have developed Judicial Tool Kits. The most recent tool kit, developed in 2015, provides information about child development and trauma.
  • Lund, Theresa Roe and Jennifer Renne.Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys. (2009). American Bar Association and ACTION for Child Protection, Inc. The purpose of this Guide is to provide judges and attorneys with a practical summary about child safety so they can: (1) evaluate whether agency recommendations regarding child safety are based on sufficient information; (2) recognize recommendations that follow logical reasoning and analysis; (3) identify what additional specific information must be gathered and reported to the court; and (4) have confidence in decisions about child safety, which will improve decision making regarding permanency and well-being.
  • A Judicial Checklist for Children and Youth Exposed to Violence. (2006). National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Technical Assistance Brief. This guidebook discusses the effect that exposure to violence has on children and youth and reviews several promising community collaborations that employ a multidisciplinary approach in responding to children's exposure to violence. Children who witness domestic violence have an increased threat of becoming victims of child abuse or neglect.
  • Well Being Checklists. Child Protection Best Practices Bulletin: Innovative Strategies to Achieve Safety, Permanence, and Well-Being. This is a checklist for judges, case staff, and caseworkers to ensure the safety and well-being in children in permanency cases.

Mediation and Family Group Conferencing

Older Youth

  • Engaging Older Youth in the Courtroom. American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. This benchcard, a resource of the ABA's Bar-Youth Empowerment Project, was designed to assist judges with meaningfully and appropriately involving older youth in the courtroom.
  • Courtney, Mark E. and Amy Dworsky Midwest Study of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth. (2011). Chapin Hall. This longitudinal study follows 700 young people in three Midwestern states (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin) as they age out of foster care.  The three states have different policies on the age at which foster care ends.
  • Permanency for Older Youth: Strategies that Work, a Webcast. This National Governors Association webcast provided an overview of the issue and examples of how leaders in states, the legal community, and youth themselves are working to reduce the number of older youth in foster care.  The webcast featured Krista Penrod from Iowa's Youth Elevate program, the ABA's Andrea Khoury, and The Homecoming Project's Michelle Chalmers.
  • David Altschuler, et al. Supporting Youth in Transition to Adulthood: Lessons Learned from Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. (April 2009). This paper focuses on crossover youth and discusses the successes and challenges that juvenile justice and child welfare agencies face in preparing these youth for a successful adulthood.
  • Susan Golonka. The Transition to Adulthood: How States Can Support Older Youth in Foster Care. NGA Center for Best Practices. (2010). This NGA Center for Best Practices report provides successful state strategies in the following five areas: (1) promoting educational achievement; (2) connecting youth with employment and career training; (3) enhancing access to safe and affordable housing; (4) helping youth access and manage health care; and (5) helping youth build stable and lifelong relationships.

Performance Measurement

Racial Ethnic Disproportionality

  • Courts Catalyzing Change. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges' (NCJFCJ) Courts Catalyzing Change (CCC) initiative was developed to reduce disproportionality and disparate treatment in dependency court systems.  The CCC website includes many resources including CCC newsletters, reports, benchcards, and other disproportionality resources.
  • Disproportionality Rates for Children of Color in Foster Care Across the States. (2015). This NCJFCJ Technical Assistance Bulletin presents disproportionality rates for all 50 states. The report indicates that nearly every state has a disproportionate number of African-American children in foster care, with most rates of foster care between 2 and 4 times the proportion of African-American children in the population.  American Indian/Alaska Native children, nationally, are overrepresented in foster care at a rate of 2.4 times their rate in the general population.
  • Hill, Robert B. An Analysis of Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality and Disparity at the National, State, and County Levels. (2007). Casey Family Programs. This study examines the racial/ethnic disproportionality in the child welfare system at the national, state and county levels.  Included in the study are comparisons between African Americans and whites and it also incorporates other communities, namely American Indians, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics.
  • Chibnall, Susan, et al. Children of Color in the Child Welfare System: Perspectives From the Child Welfare Community. (December 2003). U.S. Children`s Bureau. This project examines the issue of racial disproportionality from the perspective of the child welfare community, including agency administrators, supervisors, and direct service workers, and to describe the strategies child welfare and child-welfare serving agencies use to meet the needs of children and families of color in the child welfare system.
  • Racial and Ethnic Disparity and Disproportionality in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice: A Compendium. (January 2009). Chicago: Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago. This paper addresses the disparate and disproportional representation of racial and ethnic minorities in child welfare and juvenile justice and offers five intervention strategies, including (1) increasing transparency, (2) reengineering structure and procedures, (3) changing organizational culture, (4) mobilizing political leadership, and (5) partnering in developing community and family resources.


  • Colorado Respondent Parents` Counsel Task Force. Colorado Supreme Court. In 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court through the Colorado Court Improvement Program created the Respondent Parents’ Counsel Task Force, a group of child welfare professionals, to review the issues facing respondent parents’ counsel and to make recommendations to the Supreme Court and the Colorado Legislature.  Resource found on this site include a Report to the Chief Justice and a Resource Packet that includes relevant statutes, a motion bank, Practice Guidelines, checklists, judicial checklists, and other useful resources on child welfare and domestic violence.
  • Legal Representation for Parents in Child Welfare Proceedings: A Performance-Based Analysis of Michigan Practice. (2009). American Bar Association, Center on Children on the Law for Michigan State Court Administrative Office. In September 2008, the Child Welfare Services Division of the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) engaged the ABA's Center on Children and the Law to assess how Michigan provides representation for parents in child protection proceedings and to make recommendations for an improved parent representation model.  This report presents the findings of this assessment.
  • National Association of Counsel for Children. The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) is a non-profit child advocacy and professional membership association. The NACC is dedicated to providing high quality legal representation for children. The website's publications section includes the NACC Recommendations for Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, the ABA/NACC Revised Standards of Practice, and other useful resources .
  • Rauber, Diane Boyd.Representing Parents in Child Welfare Cases: A Basic Introduction for Attorneys. (2000). American Bar Association. This publication discusses the role of parents’ counsel in child-protection proceedings, the responsibility of attorneys, pretrial independent investigations, mediation and ADR, and termination of parent’s rights.
  • Summary of Parent Representation Models. (2009). American Bar Association, Center on Children and the Law. This information sheet summarizes a small number of parent representation models used in various states across the country.

Listservs and Newsletters

  • Child-Court List Group. Sponsored by the American Bar Association. This listserv deals with children’s issues predominantly. To enroll in the child-court group send a message to saying “Subscribe child-court.”
  • Children`s Bureau Express Monthly E-Newsletter. Children's Bureau Express. This newsletter is designed for professionals concerned with child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption. The Web site and newsletter provide information on top stories, current research, and promising practices related to child welfare.
  • Continuing Upward from the Summit E-Newsletter and Listserv. The National Center for State Courts publishes a quarterly newsletter highlighting implementation, accomplishments, and events throughout the country related to family courts and child welfare. See the most recent edition, vol. 9 (Dec. 2008), or access the archives here. To join the listserv and receive this e-newsletter, e-mail and in the body of the message put “Join Children Summit.”
  • The Judges` Page Newsletter. National CASA Association. The Judges' Page Newsletter is a quarterly online newsletter that provides information on child welfare issues and includes articles by judicial peers.

Safely Reducing the Number of Children in Foster Care

Tribal Courts

  • The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). This national nonprofit provides a comprehensive source of information on American Indian child welfare.  NICWA also provides public policy, research, advocacy, information, training, and community development services. For courts seeking to contact a tribe regarding an ICWA matter NICWA includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • List of Designated Tribal Agents
  • National Directory of Tribal Justice Systems. The National American Indian Court Judges Association. This national directory includes contact information for tribal justice systems in addition to Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) tribal contact information for notice purposes and tribes’ tribal affiliations.


  • More Than One in Five U.S. Kids Has Had Multiple Adverse Experiences. (2018). This video webcast presented the newly developed court outcome measures on well-being. The webcast featured a panel discussion and questions were fielded from webcast viewers. The webcast was sponsored by the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues.
  • Webcast on Court Outcome Measures of Well-Being. (2012). This video webcast presented the newly developed court outcome measures on well-being. The webcast featured a panel discussion and questions were fielded from webcast viewers. The webcast was sponsored by the National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues.