Supreme Court recognizes 13 judicial circuits for extraordinary success in holding timely child abuse and neglect hearings

3 October 2008


Supreme Court recognizes 13 judicial circuits for extraordinary success in holding timely child abuse and neglect hearings


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith honored 13 judicial circuits for their extraordinary success in holding timely hearings during fiscal 2008 in child abuse and neglect cases in which children removed from their homes are to be reunited with their families or are to be placed in another permanent home as soon as possible. Stith presented the Supreme Court permanency awards during a special ceremony Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 1, at the Supreme Court of Missouri in Jefferson City.

"Timely hearings are critical if children who have been removed from their homes are to be reunited with their families or are to be placed in other permanent homes as soon as possible," Stith said. "The nature of these cases can make it very difficult to hold timely hearings unless the officials involved exert strong and continuous efforts to do so, and those courts that achieve the highest success deserve recognition for their difficult achievement."

"This year was unprecedented, not only in the number of circuits earning the awards but also in the fact that a dozen of these circuits conducted all of these hearings within the time frames," Stith said. "The success these circuits achieved is a testament to the leadership and hard work of judges, commissioners, juvenile officers, clerks and other support staff." Stith noted this is the third year the awards have been given.

In evaluating what circuits qualify for the permanency awards, the circuits first were placed in size classes based on the total number of hearings that were due during a particular time period. They then had to rank among the top two in their size class to qualify. This year, due to ties in two of the size classes, a total of 13 circuits are receiving the award.

The hearing time frames apply for six types of hearings and vary depending on the type of hearing. For example, courts should hold a hearing to determine whether a child safely can return home within three business days from the date the child is taken into protective custody. Another time frame provides that courts should hold a permanency hearing to decide a child's permanent placement within 12 months from the date the child is taken into protective custody. These time frames were developed based on recommendations from the Commission on Children's Justice.

"Although all our circuits work hard to expedite these time-sensitive child abuse and neglect matters, the Permanency Award serves as an incentive recognizing the top-performing circuits in the various size classifications," Stith said. "In the three years since we have instituted the awards, we have seen the timeliness of hearings continue to increase, making the awards very competitive. In fact, this year, none of the winners performed lower than the 99th percentile – quite a remarkable achievement."

Of the 13 circuits honored today with the Supreme Court Permanency Award, three have been honored all three years. Receiving awards on behalf of these circuits were:

  • Juvenile Officer Mary Marquez, Assistant Director of Legal Services Bill Jackson and Staff Counsel Lori Stipp of the 16th Judicial Circuit (Jackson County), which held 99 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely;
  • Presiding Judge Stanley Moore and Juvenile Officer Tammy Walden of the 26th Judicial Circuit (Camden, Laclede, Miller, Moniteau and Morgan counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely; and
  • The 4th Judicial Circuit (Atchison, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. Representatives of this circuit were unable to attend today's ceremony.

This was the second time that five other circuits have been honored. Receiving permanency awards on behalf of these circuits were:

  • Juvenile Officer Janet Warner, Chief Deputy Juvenile Officer Mark Lindsay and Deputy Juvenile Officer Rhonda Haight of the 6th Judicial Circuit (Platte County), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. This circuit also earned the award in 2006.
  • Presiding Judge Werner Moentmann, Juvenile Officer Mike McClure, and Chief Deputy Juvenile Officer Melissa Phillips of the 8th Judicial Circuit (Carroll and Ray counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. This circuit also earned the award last year.
  • Juvenile Officer Deborah Butts and Chief Deputy Juvenile Officer Brad Turner of the 30th Judicial Circuit (Benton, Dallas, Hickory, Polk and Webster counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. This circuit also earned the award last year.
  • Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer Angela Morris and Children's Division worker Tammy McCall of the 36th Judicial Circuit (Butler and Ripley counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. This circuit also earned the award last year.
  • Juvenile Officer Jerry Conner of the 44th Judicial Circuit (Douglas, Ozark and Wright counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. This circuit also earned the award in 2006.

The remaining five circuits earned permanency awards for the first time this year. Receiving awards on behalf of those circuits were:

  • Family Court Administrative Judge Cary Augustine and Juvenile Officer Rick Gaines of the 13th Judicial Circuit (Boone and Callaway counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely;
  • Presiding Judge Robert Koffman, L. Koffman, Associate Circuit Judges Keith Bail and Robert Liston, Juvenile Officer Maria Mittelhauser and Chief Deputy Juvenile Officer Linda Lacy of the 18th Judicial Circuit (Cooper and Pettis counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely;
  • Family Court Judge Jimmie Edwards, Assistant Court Administrator Kathryn Herman, Children's Division Regional Director Tena Thompson, Attorney for the Juvenile Officer Laura Harrold, and Deputy Juvenile Officer Kathy Tharp of the 22nd Judicial Circuit (City of St. Louis), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely;
  • Juvenile Court Administrator Barb Smith of the 33rd Judicial Circuit (Mississippi and Scott counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely; and
  • The 1st Judicial Circuit (Clark, Schuyler and Scotland counties), which held 100 percent of the hearings in child abuse and neglect cases timely. Representatives of this circuit were unable to attend today's ceremony.

Stith also recognized an additional 24 circuits that conducted at least 95 percent of their hearings within the time guidelines: 2nd Judicial Circuit (Adair, Knox and Lewis counties); 3rd Judicial Circuit (Grundy, Harrison, Mercer and Putnam counties); 5th Judicial Circuit (Andrew and Buchanan counties); 9th Judicial Circuit (Sullivan, Linn and Chariton counties); 10th Judicial Circuit (Marion, Monroe and Ralls counties); 11th Judicial Circuit (St. Charles County); 15th Judicial Circuit (Lafayette and Saline counties); 17th Judicial Circuit (Cass and Johnson counties); 19th Judicial Circuit (Cole County); 21st Judicial Circuit (St. Louis County); 23rd Judicial Circuit (Jefferson County; 24th Judicial Circuit (Madison, Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois and Washington counties); 25th Judicial Circuit (Maries, Pulaski, Phelps and Texas counties); 28th Judicial Circuit (Vernon, Barton, Cedar and Dade counties); 29th Judicial Circuit (Jasper County); 32nd Judicial Circuit (Perry, Cape Girardeau and Bollinger counties); 35th Judicial Circuit (Stoddard and Dunklin counties); 37th Judicial Circuit (Carter, Howell, Oregon and Shannon counties); 38th Judicial Circuit (Christian and Taney counties); 39th Judicial Circuit (Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties); 41st Judicial Circuit (Macon and Shelby counties); 42nd Judicial Circuit (Crawford, Dent, Iron, Reynolds and Wayne counties); 43rd Judicial Circuit (Caldwell, Clinton, Daviess, DeKalb and Livingston counties); and 45th Judicial Circuit (Lincoln and Pike counties).

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