The Child Protection Court Improvement Program is a collaborative effort involving several community and government partners aimed at improving processes and long-term outcomes for children and families involved in child protection proceedings. This past year, a great degree of focus was centered around developing resources for judges and practitioners as well as preparation for the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
Child Protection Committee
The CIP is guided by the work of the Idaho Supreme Court’s Child Protection Committee, a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders that makes recommendations to the Court in regards to court policies & procedures to align court process with best practice.
The committee is working with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and other partners to review and revise court processes to better align with the implementation of Idaho’s vision of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First), which is expected in October 2021. Family First focuses on preventing the initial instance of child abuse or neglect by allowing states to use federal funds to provide services to families in the areas of mental health, substance use, and in-home parenting skills training. Family First also seeks to improve the quality of care for children placed in congregate or group care. The Child Protection Committee is currently working on a court rule to deﬁne a process for obtaining court approval when the placement recommendation is a residential treatment facility.
In addition, this past year, the committee focused on updating and improving resources utilized by judges and other stakeholders. This effort included an update of the Child Protection Benchcards, a set of guidelines that identifies best practices and state and federal legal requirements for all court proceedings in, and each stage of, the child protection process. The benchcards can be found on the Idaho Supreme Court website at the link provided below:
Idaho’s Guardian Ad Litem Programs
Idaho’s Child Protective Act refers to a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) as a person appointed by a court under the GAL volunteer program to act as special advocate for a child (I.C. § 16-1602(23)).
Each judicial district has at least one non-profit GAL program available for appointment and a program that serves children in every county. Idaho statutes provides that, when appointed in a child protection case, a volunteer GAL is required to:
- Conduct an independent factual investigation of the child’s circumstances
- File a written report with the appointing court conveying the results of the investigation and the GAL’s recommendations
- Advocate for the child’s best interest
- Monitor the child’s circumstances throughout the life of the case
- Assure that the terms of the court’s orders are being fulfilled and remain in the best interest of the child (I.C. §16-1633).
The Idaho Legislature provides financial support to the independent, non-profit organizations that recruit, train, and support GAL volunteers through a grant program. Each year funding is appropriated from Idaho’s General Fund to the Idaho Supreme Court for this purpose. The Supreme Court currently acts as the grant administrator for these funds. In Fiscal Year 2021, the Legislature appropriated $1,379,200.
To learn more about Idaho’s individual Guardian Ad Litem programs, visit one of the websites below: