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S. 2272 (rs) To amend the boundaries of Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in the State of Montana. ...


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106th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                S. 2272


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                           September 27, 2000

               Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 AN ACT


 
   To improve the administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
  Nation's abuse and neglect courts and for other purposes consistent 
            with the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Strengthening Abuse and Neglect 
Courts Act of 2000''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress finds the following:
            (1) Under both Federal and State law, the courts play a 
        crucial and essential role in the Nation's child welfare system 
        and in ensuring safety, stability, and permanence for abused 
        and neglected children under the supervision of that system.
            (2) The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 
        105-89; 111 Stat. 2115) establishes explicitly for the first 
        time in Federal law that a child's health and safety must be 
        the paramount consideration when any decision is made regarding 
        a child in the Nation's child welfare system.
            (3) The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 promotes 
        stability and permanence for abused and neglected children by 
        requiring timely decision-making in proceedings to determine 
        whether children can safely return to their families or whether 
        they should be moved into safe and stable adoptive homes or 
        other permanent family arrangements outside the foster care 
        system.
            (4) To avoid unnecessary and lengthy stays in the foster 
        care system, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 
        specifically requires, among other things, that States move to 
        terminate the parental rights of the parents of those children 
        who have been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months.
            (5) While essential to protect children and to carry out 
        the general purposes of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 
        1997, the accelerated timelines for the termination of parental 
        rights and the other requirements imposed under that Act 
        increase the pressure on the Nation's already overburdened 
        abuse and neglect courts.
            (6) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would be substantially 
        improved by the acquisition and implementation of computerized 
        case-tracking systems to identify and eliminate existing 
        backlogs, to move abuse and neglect caseloads forward in a 
        timely manner, and to move children into safe and stable 
        families. Such systems could also be used to evaluate the 
        effectiveness of such courts in meeting the purposes of the 
        amendments made by, and provisions of, the Adoption and Safe 
        Families Act of 1997.
            (7) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would also be improved by the 
        identification and implementation of projects designed to 
        eliminate the backlog of abuse and neglect cases, including the 
        temporary hiring of additional judges, extension of court 
        hours, and other projects designed to reduce existing 
        caseloads.
            (8) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would be further strengthened 
        by improving the quality and availability of training for 
        judges, court personnel, agency attorneys, guardians ad litem, 
        volunteers who participate in court-appointed special advocate 
        (CASA) programs, and attorneys who represent the children and 
        the parents of children in abuse and neglect proceedings.
            (9) While recognizing that abuse and neglect courts in this 
        country are already committed to the quality administration of 
        justice, the performance of such courts would be even further 
        enhanced by the development of models and educational 
        opportunities that reinforce court projects that have already 
        been developed, including models for case-flow procedures, case 
        management, representation of children, automated interagency 
        interfaces, and ``best practices'' standards.
            (10) Judges, magistrates, commissioners, and other judicial 
        officers play a central and vital role in ensuring that 
        proceedings in our Nation's abuse and neglect courts are run 
        efficiently and effectively. The performance of those 
        individuals in such courts can only be further enhanced by 
        training, seminars, and an ongoing opportunity to exchange 
        ideas with their peers.
            (11) Volunteers who participate in court-appointed special 
        advocate (CASA) programs play a vital role as the eyes and ears 
        of abuse and neglect courts in proceedings conducted by, or 
        under the supervision of, such courts and also bring increased 
        public scrutiny of the abuse and neglect court system. The 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would benefit from an 
        expansion of this program to currently underserved communities.
            (12) Improved computerized case-tracking systems, 
        comprehensive training, and development of, and education on, 
        model abuse and neglect court systems, particularly with 
        respect to underserved areas, would significantly further the 
        purposes of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 by 
        reducing the average length of an abused and neglected child's 
        stay in foster care, improving the quality of decision-making 
        and court services provided to children and families, and 
        increasing the number of adoptions.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
    (a) Abuse and Neglect Courts.--The term ``abuse and neglect 
courts'' means the State and local courts that carry out State or local 
laws requiring proceedings (conducted by or under the supervision of 
the courts)--
            (1) that implement part B and part E of title IV of the 
        Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 et seq.) 
        (including preliminary disposition of such proceedings);
            (2) that determine whether a child was abused or neglected;
            (3) that determine the advisability or appropriateness of 
        placement in a family foster home, group home, or a special 
        residential care facility; or
            (4) that determine any other legal disposition of a child 
        in the abuse and neglect court system.
    (b) Agency Attorney.--The term ``agency attorney'' means an 
attorney or other individual, including any government attorney, 
district attorney, attorney general, State attorney, county attorney, 
city solicitor or attorney, corporation counsel, or privately retained 
special prosecutor, who represents the State or local agency 
administrating the programs under parts B and E of title IV of the 
Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 et seq.) in a 
proceeding conducted by, or under the supervision of, an abuse and 
neglect court, including a proceeding for termination of parental 
rights.

SEC. 4. GRANTS TO STATE COURTS AND LOCAL COURTS TO AUTOMATE THE DATA 
              COLLECTION AND TRACKING OF PROCEEDINGS IN ABUSE AND 
              NEGLECT COURTS.

    (a) Authority To Award Grants.--
            (1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), the Attorney 
        General, acting through the Office of Juvenile Justice and 
        Delinquency Prevention of the Office of Justice Programs, shall 
        award grants in accordance with this section to State courts 
        and local courts for the purposes of--
                    (A) enabling such courts to develop and implement 
                automated data collection and case-tracking systems for 
                proceedings conducted by, or under the supervision of, 
                an abuse and neglect court;
                    (B) encouraging the replication of such systems in 
                abuse and neglect courts in other jurisdictions; and
                    (C) requiring the use of such systems to evaluate a 
                court's performance in implementing the requirements of 
                parts B and E of title IV of the Social Security Act 
                (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 et seq.).
            (2) Limitations.--
                    (A) Number of grants.--Not less than 20 nor more 
                than 50 grants may be awarded under this section.
                    (B) Per state limitation.--Not more than 2 grants 
                authorized under this section may be awarded per State.
                    (C) Use of grants.--Funds provided under a grant 
                made under this section may only be used for the 
                purpose of developing, implementing, or enhancing 
                automated data collection and case-tracking systems for 
                proceedings conducted by, or under the supervision of, 
                an abuse and neglect court.
    (b) Application.--
            (1) In general.--A State court or local court may submit an 
        application for a grant authorized under this section at such 
        time and in such manner as the Attorney General may determine.
            (2) Information required.--An application for a grant 
        authorized under this section shall contain the following:
                    (A) A description of a proposed plan for the 
                development, implementation, and maintenance of an 
                automated data collection and case-tracking system for 
                proceedings conducted by, or under the supervision of, 
                an abuse and neglect court, including a proposed budget 
                for the plan and a request for a specific funding 
                amount.
                    (B) A description of the extent to which such plan 
                and system are able to be replicated in abuse and 
                neglect courts of other jurisdictions that specifies 
                the common case-tracking data elements of the proposed 
                system, including, at a minimum--
                            (i) identification of relevant judges, 
                        court, and agency personnel;
                            (ii) records of all court proceedings with 
                        regard to the abuse and neglect case, including 
                        all court findings and orders (oral and 
                        written); and
                            (iii) relevant information about the 
                        subject child, including family information and 
                        the reason for court supervision.
                    (C) In the case of an application submitted by a 
                local court, a description of how the plan to implement 
                the proposed system was developed in consultation with 
                related State courts, particularly with regard to a 
                State court improvement plan funded under section 13712 
                of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (42 
                U.S.C. 670 note) if there is such a plan in the State.
                    (D) In the case of an application that is submitted 
                by a State court, a description of how the proposed 
                system will integrate with a State court improvement 
                plan funded under section 13712 of such Act if there is 
                such a plan in the State.
                    (E) After consultation with the State agency 
                responsible for the administration of parts B and E of 
                title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et 
                seq.; 670 et seq.)--
                            (i) a description of the coordination of 
                        the proposed system with other child welfare 
                        data collection systems, including the 
                        Statewide automated child welfare information 
                        system (SACWIS) and the adoption and foster 
                        care analysis and reporting system (AFCARS) 
                        established pursuant to section 479 of the 
                        Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 679); and
                            (ii) an assurance that such coordination 
                        will be implemented and maintained.
                    (F) Identification of an independent third party 
                that will conduct ongoing evaluations of the 
                feasibility and implementation of the plan and system 
                and a description of the plan for conducting such 
                evaluations.
                    (G) A description or identification of a proposed 
                funding source for completion of the plan (if 
                applicable) and maintenance of the system after the 
                conclusion of the period for which the grant is to be 
                awarded.
                    (H) An assurance that any contract entered into 
                between the State court or local court and any other 
                entity that is to provide services for the development, 
                implementation, or maintenance of the system under the 
                proposed plan will require the entity to agree to allow 
                for replication of the services provided, the plan, and 
                the system, and to refrain from asserting any 
                proprietary interest in such services for purposes of 
                allowing the plan and system to be replicated in 
                another jurisdiction.
                    (I) An assurance that the system established under 
                the plan will provide data that allows for evaluation 
                (at least on an annual basis) of the following 
                information:
                            (i) The total number of cases that are 
                        filed in the abuse and neglect court.
                            (ii) The number of cases assigned to each 
                        judge who presides over the abuse and neglect 
                        court.
                            (iii) The average length of stay of 
                        children in foster care.
                            (iv) With respect to each child under the 
                        jurisdiction of the court--
                                    (I) the number of episodes of 
                                placement in foster care;
                                    (II) the number of days placed in 
                                foster care and the type of placement 
                                (foster family home, group home, or 
                                special residential care facility);
                                    (III) the number of days of in-home 
                                supervision; and
                                    (IV) the number of separate foster 
                                care placements.
                            (v) The number of adoptions, guardianships, 
                        or other permanent dispositions finalized.
                            (vi) The number of terminations of parental 
                        rights.
                            (vii) The number of child abuse and neglect 
                        proceedings closed that had been pending for 2 
                        or more years.
                            (viii) With respect to each proceeding 
                        conducted by, or under the supervision of, an 
                        abuse and neglect court--
                                    (I) the timeliness of each stage of 
                                the proceeding from initial filing 
                                through legal finalization of a 
                                permanency plan (for both contested and 
                                uncontested hearings);
                                    (II) the number of adjournments, 
                                delays, and continuances occurring 
                                during the proceeding, including 
                                identification of the party requesting 
                                each adjournment, delay, or continuance 
                                and the reasons given for the request;
                                    (III) the number of courts that 
                                conduct or supervise the proceeding for 
                                the duration of the abuse and neglect 
                                case;
                                    (IV) the number of judges assigned 
                                to the proceeding for the duration of 

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