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Seen, Heard, and Engaged: Children in Dependency Court Hearings

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Whitney Barnes, J.D.; Andrea Koury, J.D.; Kristin Kelly, J.D.
Date Published
August 2012
21 pages
This technical assistance bulletin presents information, guidance, and recommendations for dependency courts and judges regarding bringing children to court for hearings related to their own dependency cases.
Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to bring children of all ages to court, unless the judge decides it is not safe or appropriate based on information provided by case participants. Under this basic principle, this report presents information on best practices for bringing children to court, as well as the legal framework that supports children's attendance at and participation in hearings. Regarding the legal framework for children's attendance and participation in court proceedings that affect them, the Federal Child and Family Services Improvement Act requires, among other things, "procedural safeguards to be put in place to assure that in any permanency hearing held with respect to the child, including any hearing pertinent to the transition of the child from foster care to independent living, the court or administrative body conducting the hearing consults, in an age-appropriate manner, with the child regarding the proposed permanency or transition plan for the child." In addition, the Federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires, as part of the case review process, a youth-directed transition plan to be created within 90 days of a youth's exiting foster care. In addition to Federal law, many State laws mandate including children in the court, partly because of changes in Federal law, and partly in response to the recommendations of national organizations and former foster children. Although there is limited social science research on the impact of and outcomes from children attending court, it supports the practice of involving children in permanency planning and in their court hearings. Appended judicial "benchcards" for age-appropriate engagement of children and a listing of resources