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Courts, Children and Families Division | State of Illinois Office of the Illinois Courts

 (217) 785-4703 (Springfield Office)

Heather Dorsey, Director, Courts, Children and Families Division & The Court Improvement Program

The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts created the Courts, Children and Families Division (CCFD) was created, effective May 1, 2020. The Division is a successor to the Courts, Children and Families Unit within the Court Services Division. The Supreme Court of Illinois supported the creation of the Division to expand its work to critical court matters related to children and families. The mission of the Division is to support the administration of justice by delivering quality education, training, technical assistance, and fostering collaborative relationships with court stakeholders to ensure the safety, stability, and well-being for Illinois children and families involved in the court system.

Illinois Court Improvement Program (ICIP)

A major component of the CCFD is the administration of the federally funded Illinois Court Improvement Program (CIP). The Division supports the Illinois CIP by managing the programmatic and fiscal aspects of the CIP grant award and meeting the funding requirements for projects on quality representation, quality hearings, and a joint project with Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS). The CCFD continues to develop the foundation and infrastructure for improved court practices in child protection cases by concentrating its efforts on addressing timely permanency in Illinois through the Child Protection Data Courts Project, collaborating with IDCFS, and providing training and resources for juvenile court judges and attorneys assigned to child protection cases.

In addition to providing continuation funding for long-term projects, including the Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Illinois School of Law and the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Southern Illinois University, the ICIP funds new projects aimed at enhancing representation for children. The ICIP continues to develop and fund training for judges and attorneys assigned to juvenile cases.

Child Protection Data Courts Project (CPDC)

Through the CPDC Project, the CCFD collects and analyzes child protection court performance measures, demographic information and case characteristics in child abuse and neglect cases. Currently, eight counties collect CPDC Project data. The CPDC Project sites track case demographic information as well as 18 of 30 nationally recognized child protection court performance measures. The project sites are implementing action plans developed by each county, based on the collected performance measure data that includes a project initiative with goals, action items, responsibilities, timelines, and outcome measures.

Collaboration with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (IDCFS)

In 2022, the CCFD maintained its’ working relationship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) by continuing to implement the court related strategies included in the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Program Improvement Plan (PIP), Title IV-E Legal Reimbursement Pilot Project, upcoming federal Title IV-E Review and providing training to judges and attorneys on the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) and the Qualified Residential Placement Programs (QRTP) provisions contained in the Act. CCFD staff continues to participate on various IDCFS committees and several representatives of IDCFS are members of the Court Improvement Program Advisory Committee.

Intact Families Project

ICIP and IDCFS worked collaboratively on enhancing safety and improving timely permanency for children and families in Illinois by increasing the knowledge of court stakeholders on the use of orders of protective supervision and continuance under supervision in cases involving IDCFS’s voluntary Intact Family Services. CCFD staff surveyed counties on current court practices and how commonly courts are monitoring intact family cases, developed and delivered training and written resources to juvenile court judges, attorneys and IDCFS attorneys on Intact Family Services and the role of the court.

Quality Hearing Project

CCFD developed and implemented a quality hearing court project with an emphasis on effectively engaging mothers, fathers and youth during the early stages of a case through quality hearing practices to increase focus on permanency, meaningful hearings and quality permanency plans. ICIP partnered with five (5) pilot sites to implement quality hearing courtroom best practices with use of newly developed Quality Hearing Bench Cards. CCFD is continuing to roll-out the bench cards and training.

Quality Legal Representation Initiative

The Division is working to improve legal representation for Respondent Parents, at both the appellate and trail court levels, in juvenile abuse and neglect matters though an ICIP Committee. The Committee has guided efforts on gathering data regarding current parent attorney appointment models, reimbursement rates, and training needs. In addition, ICIP developed training for parent attorneys to be delivered in 2023 on effective appellate advocacy and continues to develop additional courses for parent attorneys at the trial court level.

 Dual Status Youth Initiative

The term “dual status” refers to children and youth who come into contact with both the child protection and juvenile justice systems. Through partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center and their multidisciplinary framework, the AOIC seeks to develop strategies for early identification of dual status youth to improve system communication and coordination of services to improve outcomes, with a special focus on those subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.