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Integrated Approaches to Manage Multi-Case Families in the Justice System

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2006
155 pages
This report evaluates the unified family courts (UFCs) approach in three jurisdictions--Maricopa County, AZ, Deschutes County, OR, and Jackson County, OR--that were developed to address the needs of families with multiple court cases.
Key research findings indicate that unified family courts (UFCs) may be more effective than traditional courts at delivering the critical court services of drug treatment, frequent monitoring, encouraging stipulations in dependency and criminal cases, and providing more services and encouraging reunifications in dependency cases. However, while the findings suggest that the UFC model can be an effective means of addressing the needs of families with multiple court cases, the UFC model requires substantial commitment from the justice system and is generally incompatible with the practice of frequent judge rotation across assignments. Significant court and job restructuring is often necessary to effectively implement a UFC system and judges within a UFC model must be willing to commit 2 or 3 years to the UFC system in order to see the resolution of their cases. Additionally, for UFCs to be effective, sufficient community services are essential. Thus, in jurisdictions that have the necessary resources and support, UFC models can be an effective means of meeting the requirements of families with multiple court cases. The primary data examined for this study were drawn from a review of the court records of families served by the UFC in each of the three sites. Data included the filings, hearings, court orders, and case outcomes for dependency, delinquency, domestic relations, civil protection, domestic violence, child abuse, and other criminal cases. The court records of 155 families in Maricopa County were reviewed along with the court records of 106 families in Deschutes County and the court records of 145 families in Jackson County. The total number of cases reviewed across all sites was 1,399 with 8,680 hearings. Interviews and focus groups were also conducted with program administrators and staff, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, probation officers, children protection workers, and representatives of relevant UFC advisory groups. Figures, tables, references, appendixes

Date Published: November 1, 2006