Managing Cases in a Timely Manner

Section 3.12

Judicial Officers and Entities Providing Case Management Services Should Effectively Manage And Close Court and Agency Cases in a Timely Manner

Judges and agencies providing direct services to children and families in status offense cases must strike a balance between over-evaluating case progress and letting cases languish without any oversight.  Over-evaluating case progress can take a toll on the child and family, adding an extra layer of burden and scrutiny.  Too frequent court reviews or agency meetings may disengage families who are often struggling with a myriad of other issues at home, school and work; making it difficult for them to participate in too many meetings and court appearances.  This added pressure may ultimately work contrary to case goals, making it more difficult for the family to help identify and implement solutions that will successfully resolve the case.  Importantly, overly frequent reviews may not allow corrective measures to take hold or allow the child to develop new connections to school or home that require time to stabilize and develop.

Courts and direct service providers must manage and close each status offense case based on the individual needs of the child and family.  

Conversely, courts and service agencies must also be cognizant of not letting cases languish with little or no oversight.  Failing to assess how the child and family is being served and what progress they, as well as the service providers, are making increases the likelihood that the cause behind the court referral will not be adequately addressed.  The child then may be more at risk for remaining in the status offense system unnecessarily or entering another system, such as juvenile justice, mental health or child welfare.  

Therefore, courts and direct service providers must manage and close each status offense case based on the individual needs of the child and family.  Conducting early screening and assessments can help the agency and court understand the child and family’s needs and develop a case management plan, which includes timeframes and the provision of appropriate services and interventions.  In implementing an effective case management plan, professionals should be realistic about the family’s capacity and needs and flexible when those needs change or new information comes to light.  How frequently case progress should be assessed and ultimately when a case should close should be determined based on what the child (and possibly family) wants, and what the child and family need to successfully transition out of the status offense system.

To better prepare children and families for successful case closure, courts and service providers should link families to community-based, educational or other transitional support services, such as special education services through the child’s school, mental health services through community mental health programs or employment/career support services.  Service providers should also meet with the family several times leading up to case closure to develop a transitional case plan that is realistic to complete and provides the family and child needed support as they leave the status offense system.