September 26, 2019

Harris, Cornyn Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Program to Support Child Welfare Cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) on Thursday reintroduced the Continuing of Useful Resources to States (COURTS) Act to reauthorize the State Court Improvement Program (CIP), which provides formula grants to state courts to help them improve their handling of child welfare cases. The bill reauthorizes CIP for five years and was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“We must do everything we can to protect the interests of our children – particularly those who have been abused and neglected,” said Sen. Harris. “This legislation gives courts and judges the resources they need to look out for these kids and ensure a system that best serves them and their families.”

“We must do everything we can to protect our nation’s most vulnerable,” said Sen. Cornyn. “Extending this program will ensure more children in these cases receive a timely resolution, help from trained legal professionals, and most importantly, support for themselves and their families."

Background on the State Court Improvement Program:

  • CIP is the only source of federal funding for state courts related to child welfare.
  • CIP provides formula grants to state court systems to do the following:
    • Conduct assessments of their foster care and adoption laws and judicial processes and to develop and implement a plan for system improvement.
    • Include improvements that the highest courts deem necessary to provide for the safety, well-being, and permanence of children in foster care.
    • Implement a corrective action plan, as necessary, in response to findings identified in a child and family services review of the state's child welfare system.
  • All eligible states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, annually receive CIP grants.
    • Typical activities include development of mediation programs, joint agency-court training, automated docketing and case tracking, linked agency-court data systems, one judge/one family models, time-specific docketing, formalized relationships with the child welfare agency, and improvement of representation for children and families.

The COURTS Act has received support from the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators.