Child Placement Review in New Jersey
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What is a Child Placement Review Board?
Child Placement Review Boards were created by the Child Placement Review Act adopted by the New Jersey State Legislature in 1978. Review Boards consist of court-appointed, trained citizen volunteers who are charged with monitoring the cases of children placed outside of their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) to ensure that such placement serves the best interest of the child. There is at least one Child Placement Review Board in each county.
How Does a Review Board Operate?
The Review Board is responsible for preparing a report that specifies any issues, concerns or recommendations that may arise regarding the placement of a child. Information for this report is gathered in the following ways: interviews and/or written reports from caseworkers, resource families, biological parents, counselors, doctors, educators and the child (when appropriate). Through group process and consensus, Review Board members arrive at a recommendation concerning the child’s best interest with a particular focus on safety, permanency and timeliness. The recommendation is submitted to the Family Court judge. Review Boards meet on a monthly or biweekly basis.
Who May Serve on a Review Board?
Review Board members must be citizens and residents of the county in which they serve and should represent the various ethnic, racial and economic populations of that county. Members are appointed by the assignment judge for a provisional term of one year and may be reappointed for additional terms of three years.
All volunteers must complete a basic 12-hour training program sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Courts and presented by the county Child Placement Review coordinator. Each year board members are required to participate in five hours of continuing education offered by the Child Placement Advisory Council (CPAC) or the county Family Court. Continuing education helps ensure that board members have a current and operational knowledge of the complex and changing nature of the problems facing children in out-of-home placement.
How Do Citizens Join a Review Board?
Recruitment of Child Placement Review Board members is an ongoing process. Each county is mandated to have at least one board for every 200 reviews held in the prior calendar year. Prospective board members are subject to an appropriate screening process, which at a minimum includes a written application, an interview and a criminal background check. Anyone interested in further information or in joining a review board should contact their vicinage volunteer coordinator.
What Do Review Boards Look at in Considering the Best Interests of the Child?
The following are the federal and state statutory requirements for the Child Placement Review. These questions must be considered at every initial and annual review:
What were the circumstances surrounding the placement?
Is the placement still necessary?
Is the placement still appropriate?
Is the goal of the plan appropriate and are the objectives appropriate?
Are the services being provided to the child, parents or legal guardian and temporary caretaker appropriate?
When appropriate, were the wishes of the child considered regarding placement and development of the placement plan?
What has been the extent of compliance with the case plan and the progress made in alleviating the causes for placement?
Are the division, the parents, legal guardian and temporary caretaker fulfilling their respective responsibilities in accordance with the placement plan?
Have the parents or legal guardian been afforded the opportunity and encouraged to participate in a program of regular visitations for the child?
Are there obstacles which hinder or prevent the attainment of the placement plan objectives and goals? Does the child have siblings who are placed outside the home?
What is the date that a permanent living arrangement is likely to be found?
Review Boards May Make Several Different Recommendations:
Child should continue in placement until the long-term goal of permanent placement is achieved;
Child should be returned to parents;
Child should be placed permanently with a relative or family friend;
Child should be legally freed for adoption;
When there is insufficient information for the board to make a recommendation, the case should be re-listed;
A summary hearing should be requested;
The case should be red flagged:
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) should be assigned.
In addition to the Family Court judge, a copy of the CPR board recommendation is sent to those persons who received notices of the review; parents or legal guardians, attorneys for parents and children, resource families, the child (when appropriate), staff of the residential facility (if applicable) and the Division of Youth and Family Services.
How and When are Interested Parties (Resource Families/Biological Families) Notified of Review by the Child Placement Review Board?
When the child is entering the foster care system for the first time, the county CPR coordinator notifies interested parties by mail within 15 days of placement. Initial Reviews are held within 45 days of placement. The board conducts a Permanency Review 11 months after placement. All interested parties are notified and encouraged to attend all CPR board reviews.
What if Interested Parties Cannot Attend a CPR Board Review?
- Interested parties may contact the county CPR coordinator to reschedule the review.
- They may request telephone conferencing if possible.
- They may compile all relevant information concerning the child and submit a letter/report to the county CPR coordinator, which should include:
v Name and age of child;
v Date of placement;
v School report card;
v Medical records;
v Observations of behavior;
v Life book/photographs;
v Child’s therapeutic programs;
v Info rmation on additional services the child may need;
v Record of the child’s reactions to visits with siblings/biological families
v Certificates of completion/progress reports on all DYFS required and/or court-ordered services;
v Any important additional information.
Input to Review Boards can be crucial to the child’s permanency planning. If interested parties disagree with the CPR Board recommendations, they may contact the CPR Board coordinator who can offer suggestions and direction.
Adoption and Safe Families Act
The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 provides that foster families (known also as resource families), pre-adoptive parents, or relatives who are caring for the child be given notice of and the opportunity to be heard at all review hearings. This notice requirement does not mean that these individuals are parties in the case. ASFA also requires that children over the age of 12 be notified of court hearings pertaining to their own court case. ASFA was enacted in New Jersey in 1999. It made significant changes in the child welfare system to solve the problem of having children languish in foster care placements.
What is the New Jersey State Child Placement Advisory Council?
The NJ State Child Placement Advisory Council (CPAC) was established by the Child Placement Review Act. The Council operates with the staff and administrative support under the auspices of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). The Council consists of one voting representative from each county review board. The chairperson of each review board is responsible for designating the representative from that board. All review board members may attend council meetings.
The Council has specific legal mandates that include advising the NJ State Supreme Court with respect to the rules governing the duties and practices of review boards; reviewing the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) policies, practices and procedures with respect to the placement of children outside their homes; monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the Child Placement Review Act; advising the NJ State Supreme Court with respect to the establishment of guidelines and procedures for the training of Child Placement Review Board members; and making an annual report to the NJ State Supreme Court, the governor, and the legislature on the effectiveness of the implementation of the Child Placement Review Act.
The Executive Board of the NJ Child Placement Advisory Council consists of 15 members elected by county Child Placement Review Board members. Through a series of standing committees, the Executive Board assists in the continuing education and training of Child Placement Review Board members, reviews current legislation, maintains ongoing relationships with organizations and groups who have a mutual interest in child welfare, publishes informational newsletters and reports, supports a Web site, and arranges workshops and speakers.
CPR BOARD VOLUNTEER REVIEW PROCESS