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2022 California Rules of Court

Standard 5.45. Resource guidelines for child abuse and neglect cases

(a) Guidelines

To improve the fair and efficient administration of child abuse and neglect cases in the California juvenile dependency system, judges and judicial officers assigned to the juvenile court, in consultation with the presiding judge of the juvenile court and the presiding judge of the superior or consolidated court, are encouraged to follow the resource guidelines of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, titled "Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse & Neglect Cases." The guidelines are meant to be goals to help courts achieve, among other objectives, the following:

(1)  Adherence to statutory timelines;

(2)  Effective calendar management;

(3)  Effective representation by counsel;

(4)  Child-friendly court facilities;

(5)  Timely and thorough reports and services to ensure informed judicial decisions, including reasonable efforts findings; and

(6)  Minimum time allocations for specified hearings.

(Subd (a) amended effective January 1, 2007.)

(b) Distribution of guidelines

Judicial Council staff will distribute a copy of the resource guidelines to each juvenile court and will provide individual copies to judicial officers and court administrators on written request.

(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2016; previously amended effective January 1, 2007.)

Standard 5.45 amended effective January 1, 2016; adopted as sec. 24.5 effective July 1, 1997; previously amended and renumbered as standard 5.45 effective January 1, 2007.

Advisory Committee Comment

Child abuse and neglect cases impose a special obligation on juvenile court judges to oversee case progress. Case oversight includes monitoring the agency's fulfillment of its responsibilities and parental cooperation with the case plan. Court involvement in child welfare cases occurs simultaneously with agency efforts to assist the family. Federal and state legal mandates assign to the juvenile court a series of interrelated and complex decisions that shape the course of state intervention and determine the future of the child and family.

Unlike almost all other types of cases in the court system, child abuse and neglect cases deal with an ongoing and changing situation. In a child welfare case, the court must focus on agency casework and parental behavior over an extended period of time. In making a decision, the court must take into account the agency's plan to help the family and anticipated changes in parental behavior. At the same time, the court must consider the evolving circumstances and needs of each child.

The purpose of these resource guidelines is to specify the essential elements of properly conducted court hearings. The guidelines describe the requirements of juvenile courts in fulfilling their oversight role under federal and state laws, and they specify the necessary elements of a fair, thorough, and speedy court process in child abuse and neglect cases. The guidelines cover all stages of the court process, from the initial removal hearing to the end of juvenile court involvement. These guidelines assume that the court will remain involved until after the child has been safely returned home, has been placed in another permanent home, or has reached adulthood.

Currently, juvenile courts in California operate under the same juvenile court law and rules, and yet the rules are implemented with considerable variation throughout the state. In part, this is due to the lack of resource guidelines. The adoption of the proposed resource guidelines will help encourage more consistent juvenile court procedures in the state.

The guidelines are meant to be goals, and, as such, some of them may appear out of reach because of fiscal constraints or lack of judicial and staff resources. The Judicial Council Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee and Judicial Council staff are committed to providing technical assistance to each juvenile court to aid in implementing these goals.


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