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