1 October 2006
Supreme Court recognizes eight judicial circuits for holding timely child abuse and neglect hearings
ST. LOUIS – Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff recognized eight judicial circuits for holding timely hearings 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. The Supreme Court permanency awards, awarded for the first time this year, were presented during the general business meeting of the Judicial Conference of Missouri, the organization of all state judges, Thursday morning, Sept. 28, at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
"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," Wolff 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."
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. 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 following recommendations from the Commission on Children's Justice.
This year's recipients held at least 97 percent of their child abuse and neglect hearings within the required time frames during fiscal 2006. Receiving awards on behalf of their circuits were:
Wolff also recognized seven additional circuits that conducted at least 95 percent of their hearings within required time frames: 3rd Judicial Circuit (Grundy, Harrison, Mercer and Putnam counties); 7th Judicial Circuit (Clay County); 10th Judicial Circuit (Marion, Monroe and Ralls counties); 15th Judicial Circuit (Lafayette and Saline counties); 18th Judicial Circuit (Cooper and Pettis counties); 19th Judicial Circuit (Cole County); and 36th Judicial Circuit (Butler and Ripley counties).