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Illinois Courts Response to COVID-19

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

(217) 785-4703 (Springfield Office)

Heather Dorsey, Assistant Director

The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts created the Courts, Children and Families Division (CCFD) effective May 1, 2020. The new 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. Due to the pandemic, the CCFD pivoted its focus to providing support to juvenile courts by hosting frequent meetings for juvenile court judges hearing child protection related cases, providing training and resources on remote hearings, and shifting funding to provide assistance for courts to facilitate remote hearings.

CCFD oversees the administration of the federally funded statewide Court Improvement Program (CIP). The Division works to support the mission, vision, and core values of Illinois’ CIP of ensuring safety and stability for children and families involved in child abuse and neglect proceedings by managing the programmatic and fiscal components of three grant awards (Basic, Data and Training). In the past year, the CCFD continued to develop the foundation and infrastructure for improved court practices in child protection cases by concentrating its efforts on addressing
timely permanency in Illinois, continuing the Child Protection Data Courts Project, and collaborating with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on the Child and Family Services Review Program Improvement Plan and implementation of the Family First Prevention and Services Act. 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 CIP funded new projects aimed at enhancing representation for children. The CCFD also serves as staff and an advisor to the Illinois Judicial College Standing Committee on Guardians ad Litem Education (GALE) and the Supreme Court Committee on Juvenile Courts.

Child Protection Data Courts Project (CPDC): Through the CPDC Project, the CCFD continued to collect and analyze child protection court performance measures, demographic information and case characteristics in child abuse and neglect cases. Currently, nine 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 2020, the CCFD continued its’ working relationship with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS) by assisting with the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Program Improvement Plan (PIP) development. The PIP, containing court related interventions, was approved by the federal government in 2020. Additionally, several representatives of IDCFS are members of the Court Improvement Program Advisory Committee.

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) Implementation: FFPSA, enacted in February 2018, shifts the focus of child protection to include prevention services. Beginning Oct. 1, 2019, Title IV-E funding can be used for evidence-based prevention services if doing so allows the child to remain safely in the home. In addition, FFPSA seeks to curtail the use of congregate or group care for children, and instead places a new emphasis on family foster homes. Reimbursement will only occur for Qualified Residential Placement Programs (QRTP). Justice partners created forms for the court to use when making required findings approving or disapproving of placement in the QRTP. The CCFD continues to participate on the FFPSA Steering Committee and will be providing training for judges and attorneys in 2021.