Alexandria, Virginia – Today, the National Council For Adoption (NCFA) released a new report, “Performance Measures for Courts: The Next Step in Foster Care Reform.” The report is a product of NCFA’s Adoption Leader Engagement Project, which educates policy makers, judicial leaders, the media, and the general public about the importance of establishing performance measures for juvenile and family courts, promoting judicial leadership, and allowing states greater flexibility in federal foster care funding.
According to the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 126,000 American children in foster care waiting to be adopted as of September 2002. Despite the efforts of dedicated judges and court officials, juvenile and family courts are often not living up to their responsibility to ensure right and timely placement of these children with loving, permanent families. According to NCFA, a crucial next step for foster care is court improvement through performance measures that provide guidance for court-improvement strategies and promote greater court transparency and accountability.
“Performance measures provide strategic information for court improvement, in two ways,” comments Thomas Atwood, NCFA president and CEO. “First, they enable courts to evaluate themselves and develop effective strategies for improvement on their own. Second, performance measures for courts enable policymakers, adoption and child welfare advocates, and the public to monitor their courts, promote successful models for court improvement, and publicize the need for reform when courts do not serve foster children well.”
The NCFA report presents four aspects of court performance that should be measured: timeliness, permanence, due process, and safety. Particularly useful measures for evaluating court performance include: number and percentage of permanency placements, by type; length of time from entry into state care, to exit from state care; time in foster care, for children currently residing there; time between termination of parental rights and the conclusion of any appeals; number and percentage of children who age out of foster care; total and average number of continuances; and number and percentage of children who have been the subject of another substantiated abuse or neglect petition, either while in foster care, or after exiting the system.
“Too often, juvenile and family courts are bottlenecks that prevent, rather than promote, right and timely placement of foster children with loving, permanent families,” Atwood continues. “Performance measures can achieve a better process for foster children by providing information
that courts need to guide their improvement strategies and that policymakers and the public need to fulfill their roles of monitoring the courts and exercising accountability.”
Since 1980, NCFA has been a leading voice among national adoption and child welfare organizations. NCFA is a research, education, and advocacy nonprofit that provides adoption information, promotes ethical adoption practices, informs public policy and opinion about adoption issues, and serves as a resource for women with unplanned pregnancies, adopted persons and their families, those seeking to adopt, and adoption professionals.