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Examining Hearing Quality in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases: The Relationship Between Breadth of Discussion and Case Outcomes

NCJ Number
Children and Youth Services Review Volume: 82 Dated: November 2017 Pages: 490-498
Alicia Summers; Sophia I. Gatowski; Melissa Gueller
Date Published
November 2017
9 pages
This study examined the relationship between breadth of discussion at the first court hearing on a child abuse and neglect case and subsequent case decisions and outcomes.
Child abuse and neglect court hearings are complex, multifaceted, and necessary for judicial oversight to ensure safe, timely permanency for youth and families involved in the system. Although best practices have been suggested, little research has been conducted to examine what the critical components of a "high quality" dependency court hearing are; and, more importantly, how these factors might be related to improved outcomes for children and families. The current study's findings suggest a positive relationship between breadth of discussion at the initial hearing and a higher likelihood of relative or parent placements compared to foster care placements, increased presence of parents throughout the life of the case, and higher likelihood of case closure and reunification. The study is limited by a small sample size and focus on one of many court hearings; however, it does provide empirical support for the possibility that the quality of the initial court hearing may be related to better outcomes for families. (publisher abstract modified)