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Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare

In-depth report on the family court system in New York

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If you haven't had a chance to visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website and subscribe to their news feeds and links, I would strongly recommend it. This is an invaluable resource for child welfare workers, supervisors, foster and adoptive parents, students, researchers and policymakers. Click here for the list of email subscriptions for which you can sign up.

Each week I receive newsletters from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and they are full of links to news stories, research articles, and other online resources. The following is a great example of a story I would likely have missed otherwise:

Reporter Helen Zelon from City Limits, an independent investigative news organization, spent several months observing and speaking with people involved with family court in New York state to understand how the family court system works. Her work resulted in an in-depth report that addresses many of the issues that child welfare workers know intimately - working with families in crisis, children adrift in the foster care system, the juvenile justice system, overburdened case workers and court dockets.

This entire series is worth reading. Here are descriptions of each of the chapters in Zelon's report along with the link to the story:

  • From Mom to Not in Seven Minutes: Inside Family Court - City Limits spent months observing Family Court and found an overburdened system where delays were endemic, legal help was scarce and the approach to solving family problems was divided.
  • When Delays Dominate, Kids Lose: Chapter two of our Family Court investigation focuses on the courtrooms that handle custody and child support, where many people try to navigate complex legal lingo without a lawyer, and where running out the clock can be a weapon in warfare between parents.
  • Blurred Lines Between Advocates and Adversaries: All parties in Family Court are supposed to be fighting for the welfare of the child. But chapter 3 of our Family Court investigation finds that in the adversarial format of a courtroom, players sometimes take on conflicting roles.
  • Juvenile Justice System Excludes Many Youthful Wrongdoers: New York's juvenile justice system is the target of reform efforts. But to some critics, it's the fact that New York State tries so many teens outside of juvenile court that most needs reform. Chapter 4 in our Family Court investigation.
  • React, Reform, Repeat: A Round of Change Faces Family Court: In chapter 5 of our investigation of New York City Family Court, we look at past reform efforts and survey judges, lawyers, advocates and parents on how they think the system could be improved.
  • A Separate System with Special Rules: A lower threshold for judgment, different standards of evidence, a shift in the burden of proof and no Fifth Amendment protection--these and other features of Family Court set it apart from the rest of the legal system.
  • Kinship Approach Shows Promise: New York recently began trying to get more children who were removed from their homes placed in guardianship relationships with other relatives. While there are potential pitfalls, the approach can save time and money.
  • Q&A with Family Court's Top Judge: A conversation with Edwina Richardson-Mendelson a one-time lawyer and then a courtroom judge in Family Court who now oversees the city's system.

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