Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Juvenile Court Partners Meet to Improve Efficiency

When Christopher Loos was a kid in foster care, he used to rap – or converse – regularly with court and children’s services staff.

Now 20 and on his own, he performs rap – the musical variety – and recently showed his talents to the staffers from his youth.

“Everybody has a story,” Loos said. “I just chose to tell it.”

Loos performed recently at a one-day caseflow consortium sponsored by the Franklin County Juvenile Court, Franklin County Children Services, and the Supreme Court of Ohio to improve local practices in abuse, neglect, and dependency cases by addressing delays and improving efficiency in the caseflow process.

Participants included judicial officers, the child welfare director and staff, court staff responsible for the dependency docket, local Court-Appointed-Special Advocates, Guardians Ad Litem, and attorneys.

The consortium included a comprehensive view of best practices in caseflow management and collaborative exercises, such as “process mapping” where justice partners were able to collaboratively chart the progress of a case from filing through key events in the dependency case process in order to assess and improve current practices.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services provided preliminary results of Ohio’s federal Child and Family Services Review, specifically identifying timeframes for cases and the impact local results can have on the review statewide.

Caseflow management is the process of moving cases through the court system. The quality of the process determines how the court achieves its most fundamental objectives; a timely case disposition means a quick resolution to a family’s struggle through the court system.

“They have to come down to the courtroom,” said Case Management Policy Counsel Ashley Gilbert. “Imagine how they would feel searching for parking and trying to find transportation, looking for their attorney, who they may have never met before. The bailiff tells them to take a seat. They are sitting there for two, maybe three hours, only to be handed a continuance.”

Franklin County Juvenile Court lead Judge Beth Gill said the collaborative efforts are part of a journey to identify and implement solutions.

“I need to know, as a judge and someone who cares about the individuals who come before me, that every legal right has been taken care of,” Gill said. “(That) every process is in place so there are no further delays so I can go forward, hear the evidence, and make good decisions.”

The collaboration provides the court and its justice partners the ability to identify and commit to a plan for assessing and improving current practices while strengthening the processing of these AND cases.

“Every time they come back to court is another day left with a kid not knowing where they are sleeping at night or parents not knowing what will happen to their kids,” Gilbert said. “But this is why we spend so much time on case management – to reduce court delay and help prevent the anxiety families experience when their case is continued.

“This consortium was a great initiative and an essential step toward recognizing local strengths and challenges in case processing, a collaborative process that will lead to better outcomes for children and families,” she said.

Or, as rapper Loos proclaimed: “It feels good.”