Court Improvement Program
The federal government established the Court Improvement Program in 1994 as a response to the dramatic increase in child abuse and neglect cases and the expanded role of courts in achieving stable, permanent homes for children in foster care. Grant funding is awarded to each state's highest court to continuously assess its foster care and adoption laws and judicial processes and to develop and implement plans for system improvements.
Michigan's Court Improvement Program operates a multi-disciplinary taskforce, which works to identify and address barriers to safety, permanency, and child and family well-being at the state and local levels. Members of the taskforce participate on one of five Court Improvement Program committees.
Improving Legal Representation
The statewide taskforce includes a Quality Representation Committee dedicated to improving the quality of legal representation in Michigan for all parties involved in abuse and neglect cases. The committee's focus is to evaluate the practice of attorneys that represent children, parents, and the Department of Human Services. As the evaluations are completed, the committee will develop model contracts, make policy and legislative recommendations, and help to implement positive changes in the child welfare system.
Attorneys for Children
An attorney for a child in a child protective proceeding in Michigan is called a lawyer- guardian ad litem (L-GAL). The CIP surveyed hundreds of L-GALs across the state, analyzed the results, interviewed various stakeholders, and developed a report and recommendations. See report to the right under Task Force Reports.
Attorneys for Parents
The CIP is also addressing the quality of representation for parents involved in child protective proceedings. In 2009, the CIP partnered with the American Bar Association (ABA) to study our system and craft a model system for parent legal representation. The ABA plans to disseminate the model to other states to improve the quality of representation throughout the United States.
Improving the Quality and Depth of Hearing
Staff Liaison: Jodi Latuszek
The CIP examined each court hearing in a child protective proceeding, developed best practice tips for courts and parties, and produced a final report. See the final report to the right under Task Force Reports.
Expanding Knowledge of the Indian Child Welfare Act
Staff Liaison: Maribeth Preston
Child welfare proceedings involving Indian children are treated differently from other child welfare cases. If the child lives on a reservation, a case must be decided by the child's tribal court instead of the state court. Many cases involving Indian children who do not live on a reservation can be transferred to tribal courts. When foster care placements or termination of parental rights proceedings for Indian children are brought before the state courts, those children, their Native American custodians, and their tribes have the right to become involved, enabling the cases to be transferred to Indian Tribal courts. The children's parents, Indian custodians, and the tribes also are entitled to a notice of the state court hearing so they can appear and respond to the charges or intervene and request a transfer, if appropriate.
Since 2009, the CIP has focused on expanding court and agency knowledge of the unique ICWA requirements. A special workgroup was created to author an ICWA Court Resource Guide
, which contains best practice tips for courts on how to implement the ICWA. The workgroup consisted of representatives from circuit and probate court judges associations, probate registers, court administrators, the Department of Human Services, prosecutors, and the federally-recognized tribes in Michigan. The guide, published in September of 2009, contains best practice tips for courts on how to implement the ICWA.
The CIP Tribal Court Relations Committee has three primary objectives: improve outcomes for Native American children in the child welfare system, preserve Native American families, and strengthen the relationship of state and tribal courts in Michigan. The committee attempts to address all matters that affect both tribal and state courts in a collaborative and effective manner.