Understanding Judicial Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare 2018 - 2022

​​​This project will support the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and the Children’s Bureau (CB) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in developing design options for a study or group of studies to better understand 1) judicial decision-making during the life of a child welfare case as well as the quality of child welfare court proceedings, 2) the factors associated with decision-making and hearing quality, and 3) the influence that decision-making and hearing quality may have on case planning and outcomes such as parent engagement in services and children’s permanency outcomes.

Under this task order, James Bell Associates, in collaboration with the American Bar Association as well as Drs. Gatowski and Summers, will build upon the relevant research findings and recent developments within the Court Improvement Projects. Specific project activities include:

  • Assessing the knowledge base related to judicial decision-making and hearing quality in child welfare cases.
  • Developing a conceptual model of key constructs related to judicial decision-making and hearing quality.
  • Identifying methods, measures, and data sources that align with the identified constructs as well as effective and efficient strategies to access and link reliable and valid administrative data.
  • Developing design options for a study or group of studies that examine how judges make determinations in child welfare cases as well as the quality of child welfare hearings and reviews, the factors that contribute to and the outcomes associated with decision-making and hearing quality, and the influence that decision-making and hearing quality may have on case planning and outcomes.
  • Conducting pre-testing and feasibility activities for the selected components of the design options.
  • Taking steps to carry out a selected design option or options.

Point(s) of contact: Alysia Blandon and Christine Fortunato.

Information collections related to this project have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under ACF’s Generic Clearance for Formative Data Collections for ACF Research (OMB #0970-0356). Related materials are available at the Understanding Judicial Decision-Making and Hearing Quality in Child Welfare: Descriptive Study of Child Welfare Courts page on RegInfo.gov.

Related Resources

This webinar discusses research examining judicial decision-making and hearing quality in child welfare court cases and why court and legal professionals should be aware of research findings.