What to do about court hearings?

Virtual Hearings

  • We are seeing cases where court systems are moving to video:

    • Indiana is conducting adoption hearings over Zoom video.

    • South Carolina is piloting use of WebEx for court hearings.

    • In Georgia, the majority of hearings are to occur through video conferencing.

Prioritizing permanency hearings like reunification and adoption can help our young people to be with their families during this time.

Court Closures

The Administration of Children and Families (ACF) is not expecting states to maintain court closure records:

Is it helpful for states to maintain lists of things like court closures and docket cancellations so if there's any impact on the data that they're reporting to the federal government, it can be justified?

"Keeping a log of those closures, that’s if they’re not having a hearing for purposes of a review or something like that? Our intent quite honestly is when we are on a regular review schedule here, not to use the timeframe that we're in right now as part of the period under review, because things are so influx and quite different from what the norm is. But even with that I think that one of the things, and this may go to another question, I don't know, but we are working very closely with the national judicial organizations out there to try and address all of the effects of court closures or altered court procedures. I don't mind telling you, I'm hearing some things out there that caused me great distress and we would like to reach the judiciary to explore with them ways in which we can continue critical functions, like parent-child visitation there. We don't want to disrupt that integrity of a parent-child relationship while we're in this situation, in ways in which we can do that. We don't want to delay, for example, reunifications that would require some court decision to make that happen or increases in visitation, some of those critical things. So we're very much in tune with that part of the child welfare system, but I don't think we're asking states right now to just keep a blanket record of what's closing and what's not, unless they want to do that. Of course that’s just fine." — Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, ACF, March 19, 2020 (source)

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