Indiana Judicial Center
30 S. Meridian Street, Ste. 900
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Angela Reid-Brown
Court Improvement Program Administrator

Pho: 317.232.1313
angela.reid-brown@courts.in.gov

Mike Commons
Staff Attorney, Division of State Court Administration

Pho: 317.233.1579
Michael.commons@courts.in.gov

Indiana Judicial Center > Court Improvement Program > About About

Federal Court Improvement Program

The Court Improvement Program is a federal grant program administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families.   The program was established in 1994 as a response to the dramatic increase in child abuse and neglect cases and the expanded role of courts in achieving stable, permanent homes for children in foster care. Funds were awarded to State Supreme Courts to assess their foster care and adoption laws and judicial processes, and to develop and implement a plan for system improvements. 

 The Safe and Stable Families Amendments of 1997, 2001 and 2006 extended the Court Improvement Program through federal fiscal year 2011.  The Amendment also expanded the scope of the program to (1) include improvements that the highest courts deem necessary to provide for the safety, well-being and permanency of children in foster care, as set forth in the Adoption and Safe Families Act; and (2) implement a corrective action plan, as necessary, in response to findings identified in a child and family service review of the State’s child welfare system. 

In 2005, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 authorized two new Court Improvement Program grants, one for data collection and analysis to help ensure that foster children’s needs for safety, permanency and well-being are being met in a timely and appropriate manner and another grant to provide training for judges, attorneys and other legal personnel in child welfare cases.  Currently, all 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico participate in the Court Improvement Program.   

Indiana Court Improvement Program

Indiana has participated in the Court Improvement Program since its inception in 1994.  While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sets the overall purpose and framework for the program, the Indiana Supreme Court has established an Executive Committee to supervise the operation of the program in Indiana.  In addition to the Executive Committee, the Court Improvement Program is guided by the Child Welfare Improvement Committee.  The committee meets regularly to help formulate strategic plans, plan Court Improvement Program events, and provide input regarding child welfare issues involving the courts. 

In 1995, Indiana’s Court Improvement Program conducted a comprehensive study of the roles, responsibilities, and effectiveness of the state’s judicial system in handling child abuse and neglect cases.  The results of the assessment were published in 1997 in The Indiana Court Improvement Project Phase One Final Report.

The report concluded that the following goals aimed at improving Indiana’s adjudication of cases involving child abuse and neglect should be pursued:

  • Put child abuse and neglect (“CHINS”) cases on a “fast track;” that is, reduce the amount of time between initial filing and entry of court dispositional decree; and reduce the amount of time between entry of the dispositional decree and the time the case is concluded.
  • Enhance training of participants in the juvenile justice system.
  • Establish Family Courts.
  • Improve coordination of services delivered pursuant to orders in CHINS cases.

In 2005, Indiana’s Court Improvement Program conducted a reassessment of the effectiveness of the judicial system’s handling of child abuse cases, and to determine how the Court Improvement Program has influenced and improved the courts’ treatment of child abuse and neglect cases.  The results of the 2005 reassessment were published in 2005 in The Indiana Court Improvement Program Reassessment Final Report

The reassessment report concluded that the goal of putting child abuse and neglect (CHINS) cases on a “fast track” should continue to be emphasized.  Other recommendations include:

  • Expand, enhance, or establish facilitation, mediation, or other similar processes and programs for intervening in CHINS cases outside of the formal courtroom setting.
  • Establish an outlet and means for regularly assessing and studying the factors affecting and placing demands on the state’s child abuse and neglect court system and Court Improvement Program.
  • Develop or explore the development of performance standards and measures to define and drive successful outcomes or results in child abuse and neglect cases.

Court Improvement Program Sub-grants

Since 1996, the Court Improvement program Executive Committee has provided sub-grants to support programs or projects that (1) are designed to improve the court process for handling child abuse and neglect proceedings; (2) provide for the safety, well-being and permanency of children in foster care; (3) provide training and education to judges, court staff, attorneys and other stakeholders involved in the child welfare system and (4) for data collection and analysis to help ensure that foster children’s needs for safety, permanency and well-being are being met in a timely and appropriate manner.  Examples of funded programs or projects include:

  • Mediation, facilitation, and family group decision making programs
  • Family resource centers
  • Installation of court technology and equipment
  • Local, regional and statewide training programs, conferences, summits and provider fairs
  • Mentoring programs and summer camp for children adjudicated CHINS
  • Court case manager or judicial officer positions
  • Specialty CHINS court programs including: parents’ drug courts, mental health courts, and problem solving courts
  • Resource guides, manuals, training and educational videos
  • Implementation of child abuse and neglect court performance measures
Court Improvement Program funds have also been used to support Indiana Supreme Court Family Court Projects that involve or improve the coordination of Child Abuse and Neglect cases, and the Indiana Supreme Court Judicial Technology and Automation Committee to build and support the child abuse and neglect module for the statewide Court Case Management system that is being made available through Odyssey to every court in Indiana.