Date: February 2, 2010
Hon. Ann Pfau
New York City Family Court and Administration for Children�s Services Launch Electronic Filing of Abuse and Neglect Petitions
NEW YORK – Hon. Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, Administrative Judge of New York City Family Court, and John B. Mattingly, Commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, today announced the successful launch of the electronic filing of abuse and neglect petitions in Family Court.
ACS is responsible for providing protective services in any case where a child is at risk of being abused or neglected. Over 12,000 such cases are filed annually with the New York City Family Court. These petitions are now being filed electronically and data which had been manually entered by court and ACS staff is now being shared electronically. This accomplishment marks the first effort of this kind by a large urban jurisdiction in the nation.
Electronic filing is part of a larger court reform effort underway in Family Court with respect to the handling of child abuse and neglect matters. The court and ACS are seeking ways to expedite permanency for children placed in foster care. Improving operation efficiency through automation is one key strategy.
The initial funding for the assessment and feasibility study was provided through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust to the Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children. The development and implementation is supported by Court Improvement Project grant funds provided to the New York State Unified Court System by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, and through the use of capital funds by the City as well as by leveraging existing City and State staff resources.
With this new process, preliminary results show that cases are reaching judges significantly earlier in the day for these critical initial hearings. Early filing enables attorneys for both parents and children to be assigned earlier; thus, clients are interviewed prior to the court hearing so that when the case goes before a judge, everyone is better prepared to move forward. Additionally, having cases heard earlier in the day reduces the amount of time that ACS workers have to spend in court, freeing them up to provide services to families.
Cost savings in terms of less overtime for workers and fewer hours spent on data entry is projected to be significant. Future stages of the initiative will include electronic transmission of court orders which will ensure that all orders are shared with all parties and also stored electronically, reducing the need for ACS to scan orders. This process will also help increase ACS’s Title IV-E reimbursement for children in foster care, ultimately saving money for both New York City and New York State.
Judge Richardson-Mendelson said, “This is an unprecedented effort by New York’s Family Court – or any similar court serving a major metropolitan area in this country – to increase the efficiency with which abuse and neglect cases are handled. Perhaps most importantly, the launch of this data sharing effort will help expedite permanency planning for vulnerable children served by the court. I want to extend deep thanks to the Administration for Children’s Services for their collaboration in this ongoing effort to ensure the safety and well-being of New York City’s children.”
ACS Commissioner Mattingly added, “By introducing this new shared data system, ACS and the Family Court are tearing up the old ways of doing things and committing ourselves to a better way of working. Our primary shared goal is to protect children, and this will help us do that better and faster.”Electronic petition filing is the first in a series of steps intended to promote better communication between the two organizations, increasing worker productivity by reducing data entry and improving data quality. In addition, the expanded amount of data available to all parties can facilitate more well-informed decision making amongst all the parties associated with the case. As this project moves forward, it will continue to take advantage of state of the art communication services provided by the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. ACS and the Office of Court Administration are working with DoITT to lay the groundwork for future data sharing capabilities so that other agencies in the child welfare community may also take advantage of this effort.