The Court Improvement Project (CIP) of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch has worked since 1994 to improve court procedures and practices around child abuse/neglect cases. Currently, the CIP is working to develop a new set of protocols related to concurrent planning for use by judges, DCYF social workers, DCYF attorneys, birth parent attorneys, CASA GALs/GALs, court personnel and families. Concurrent planning refers to the simultaneous identification by the court and development by DCYF for every abuse/neglect case of both a plan for reunification of a child with a birth parent and an alternative plan if timely reunification cannot be achieved. Alternative plans for a child include adoption, guardianship with a fit and willing relative or another appropriate individual or another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA). Understandably, there are a number of difficult conversations about concurrent planning that take place before, during, and after court hearings related to these cases. The CIP has engaged HNMCP to help assess the current roles, responsibilities, needs, and challenges of key stakeholder groups related to concurrent planning, and offer recommendations for what the court and other key stakeholders can do to clarify and improve the process for the future through the design of new court protocols and possible DCYF protocols.
Activities & Deliverables
- Receive an overview of the abuse/neglect process and relevant state law and federal law;
- Interview judges, DCYF social workers, DCYF attorneys, birth parent attorneys, CASA GALs/GALs, court personnel, families, etc. who are involved in the abuse/neglect context and observe abuse/neglect hearings (with party consent);
- Identify what the concurrent planning process looks like at present from the point of view of the different stakeholders, including current roles, responsibilities, needs, challenges, and how discussions are being held (or not held) about the concurrent plans recommended by DCYR and identified by the court of adoption, guardianship with a fit and willing relative or another appropriate individual or another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA); and
- Suggest content for protocols (and potentially for other resources) based on stakeholder interviews and best practices in having these difficult conversations about a concurrent plan for a child.