Children’s Justice Act
About the Children’s Justice Act
The Children’s Justice Act (CJA), in accordance with Section 107(a) of CAPTA, provides grants to States to develop, establish and operate programs designed to improve the investigation, prosecution, and judicial handling of cases of child abuse and neglect.
CAPTA, Section 107(a) specifies that CJA grants can be used to fund:
(A) activities to improve the investigative, administrative, and judicial handling of cases of child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as cases involving suspected child maltreatment related fatalities and cases involving a potential combination of jurisdictions, such as intrastate, interstate, Federal-State, and State-Tribal, in a manner which reduces the additional trauma to the child victim and the victim's family and which also ensures procedural fairness to the accused;
(B) support of experimental, model, and demonstration programs for testing innovative approaches and techniques which may improve the prompt and successful resolution of civil and criminal court proceedings or enhance the effectiveness of judicial and administrative action in child abuse and neglect cases, particularly child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, including the enhancement of performance of court appointed attorneys and guardians ad litem for children, and which also ensure procedural fairness to the accused; and
(C) reform of State laws, ordinances, regulations, protocols, and procedures to provide comprehensive protection for children, which may include those children involved in reports of child abuse or neglect with a potential combination of jurisdictions, such as intrastate, interstate, Federal-State, and State-Tribal, from child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse and exploitation, while ensuring fairness to all affected persons.
Programs supported by CJA funding focus on reform of State systems and improve the process by which States respond to case of abuse and neglect. CJA activities and projects are focused on front-end, intake, assessment, investigative, and prosecutorial phase of child welfare but are not designed to promote primary prevention or treatment services.
The Administration for Children and Families encourages collaboration with the Children’s Bureau’s anti-trafficking efforts when appropriate, examining the intersection of trafficking and child welfare and programming focused on systems improvement. Additionally, the Children’s Bureau encourages grantees/task force members to engage in stakeholder meetings and planning committees related to the CFSR, CFSR PIP, and CFSP.
Children’s Justice Act Requirements
One requirement for CJA grant recipients is to establish and maintain a multidisciplinary CJA State Task Force. The Task Force must include members from the following disciplines:
- Law Enforcement Community
- Criminal Court Judge(s)
- Civil Court Judge(s)
- Prosecuting Attorney(s)
- Defense Attorney(s)
- Attorney(s) for Children
- Court Appointed Special Advocate Representative(s), where such programs are in operation
- Health Professional(s)
- Mental Health Professional(s)
- Child Protective Service Agencies
- Individual(s) experienced in working with children with disabilities
- Parents and Representatives of Parent Groups
- Adult former victims of child abuse and or neglect; and
- Individuals experienced in working with homeless children and youths (as defined in section 725 of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 S.C. 11434a)).
Additional grant requirements include Three-Year Statewide Assessments that include reviews, evaluations, and recommendations in all required areas identified in CAPTA.
Ohio’s CJA Task Force
Ohio’s CJA Task Force, the Subcommittee on Responding to Child Abuse, Neglect and Dependency, was established in 2004 by unanimous vote of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Advisory Committee on Children, Families and the Courts (Advisory Committee) to:
- Determine if Ohio’s statutory guidelines for the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect properly serve children and families in need of government intervention;
- Make statutory and administrative recommendations to improve Ohio’s system for accepting and investigating reports of child abuse and neglect; and,
- Make recommendations to standardize and make uniform Ohio statutes regarding abuse, neglect, and dependency cases.
The Task Force has continued since that time as a standing subcommittee of the Advisory Committee.
Previous Ohio CJA-Supported Work
Ohio’s CJA supported work over the years has included:
- Regional, multidisciplinary training opportunities, including: Dependency Docket Caseflow Management training, Regional Judicial Trauma training, Improving Safety and Well-Being: Collaborative Approaches training, Judicial Symposium on Addiction and Child Welfare, ongoing Competitive Innovation Grants to PCSAs that are partners in a certified family dependency treatment court (in partnership with Casey Family Programs), and Demonstration Site Funding.
- Minor Victims of Human Trafficking Workgroup: This workgroup established a statewide service provider network for child victims of human trafficking through the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers and developed of a judicial bench cards for use by courts, including application of safe harbor laws.
- GAL Rule Review workgroup: After an extensive review process with input from a multitude of stakeholders, this workgroup recommended revisions to Rule 48 of the Rules of Superintendence as related to juvenile application.
- Juvenile Justice/Child Welfare Workgroup Subcommittee: This workgroup reviewed and made recommendations regarding instruments to support case functions applicable and appropriate for the unruly and delinquent population served by an agency acting as a child welfare agency.
- Bridges Judicial Workgroup: To assist with the implementation of the Bridges program, this workgroup conducted research to develop a judicial toolkit, including sample forms, best practice guidelines, required timelines, and recommended language/statutory changes.
- Caregiver Notice and Right to be Heard Workgroup: After conducting extensive research, this workgroup developed recommendations to ensure notice is properly provided to caregivers and to support caregivers in taking opportunities to be heard and created recommendations for changes to Ohio law and practice in this area. The Workgroup also developed an online toolkit to include its draft model local rule and model notice to assist courts in providing notice to caregivers, as well as a child placement form to track children’s placements, and a “Caregiver Information Form” and associated information and directions to assist caregivers in providing information to the court about the children in their care.
- Youth Engagement in Court Proceedings Workgroup: The Youth Engagement work group began by reviewing federal and state law and court rules on inclusion of youth in court proceedings. Legal research was supplemented by a review of literature on this topic and the identification of promising practices in Ohio and in other jurisdictions. The work group also developed an online toolkit with model court rules, forms, and notices, as well as a resource list and tips to help support youth participation in hearings.
- Kinship Care Workgroup: This workgroup researched and recommended statutory revisions to address barriers for kinship caregivers and to promote consistency among courts with jurisdiction over kinship caregiver relationships as well as legal informational resources for kinship caregivers.
Current CJA Projects
Currently, CJA funds support research and staffing for the Subcommittee on Responding to Child Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency and related workgroups, including the ongoing efforts of CHIPS Workgroup, and the Quality Hearing Project Workgroup; Intimate Partner Violence Collaborative county expansion and sustainability; continued multidisciplinary training opportunities that promote stakeholder-driven action planning; and support to ensure that alleged child victims of sexual assault have access to skilled and competent medical services.