The Benchmark Hearing Program

The Benchmark Permanency Hearing Program assists teen wards approaching emancipation to prepare for independence. The teen wards receive individualized attention from a judge and various court and social agency representatives at a series of hearings held at certain “benchmarks” or milestones in the teen ward’s life and case. The focus is on helping the ward identify and plan long-tern educational and career goals. The hearings also give teen wards a better understanding of what independence from the foster care system entails.

Eligible teen wards must demonstrate the mental capacity and willingness to work constructively toward independence. The following guidelines can help hearing officers, caseworkers and attorneys to determine whether a teen ward is an appropriate candidate:

  • The ward must have a previously entered permanency goal of independence.
  • The ward must be at least 16 years old with more than nine (9) months to his or her case closure.
  • The ward must be in a stable placement for a minimum of three (3) months.
  • The ward may not be incarcerated, have a pending criminal case or outstanding warrant.
  • The ward may not have a child with an open case in the Child Protection Division.
  • The ward does not have an alcohol or any controlled substance abuse issue.
  • If the ward is in a long-term residential placement, he or she must be ready to step down from such placement.

For questions about a ward’s eligibility for the Benchmark Permanency Hearing Program, please contact the Benchmark Staff Attorney at 312.433.4732. A referral form, available in any Child Protection Division courtroom, should be completed in advance to expedite the process.

Copyright 2014 by Circuit Court of Cook County