The relationship courts and judges have to the public child welfare system are distinctly different than other partnerships. Because courts have “the primary obligation to ensure the legal and constitutional rights of children, youth and families ” and judges “make all their decisions based upon applying state law and court rules of procedure to the facts put before them ,” courts and judges should not “partner” with the public child welfare agency at the individual case level. The court is expected to make decisions based on evidence before them and on the recommendations of the public child welfare agency. By not “partnering” on the individual case level, the court and judges are able to remain unbiased or uninfluenced in their decisions.
It is critical, however, for the public child welfare agencies and the courts and judges to form partnerships to inform system improvement initiatives. At a strategic level, when public child welfare agencies and the courts and judges partner to improve system processes and resolve practice issues, outcomes for children, youth and families are affected. Examples of partnerships between the two entities may include the development of communications or decision-making processes, the implementation of coordinated or shared training and opportunities to meet to review data and outcomes.