09-27 Re: Court Family Conference
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS
DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE AND CHILD PROTECTION
CHILD PROTECTION DIVISION
GENERAL ORDER 09-27
RE: COURT FAMILY CONFERENCE
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY AND UNTIL FURTHER ORDER OF THIS COURT,
a. A Court Family Conference shall be held not less than 56 days after a Temporary Custody Hearing.
b. (a) All parties must appear in person at the Court Family Conference, except for the minor who may appear in person or through a guardian ad litem or his or her attorney. In the case of a party having a pending criminal action arising out of the allegations in the petition, that party may be excused from attending the court family conference and will, instead, be represented at the conference by counsel. Unless there are special circumstances that make it inappropriate for them to attend, minors, particularly adolescents and young adults, are expected to attend. The caseworker assigned to the case also must appear. If no party objects, a foster parent may participate in the Conference. If any party objects, the court in its discretion may exclude the foster parent but the foster parent retains the right to be heard by the court before the end of the proceedings. The court may in its discretion allow other persons interested in the minor to attend the Conference at the request of the child or a parent. Additionally, if a CASA volunteer has been appointed, the court may allow him/her to participate. The failure to appear by one of the parties (with the exception of the child or his/her guardian ad litem or attorney) shall not prevent the court from going forward with the Court Family Conference.
If the parent(s) are not present for the Conference, testimony shall be taken from the caseworker regarding whether the parent received notice of the Court Family Conference, what services are appropriate for the parent(s) and whether the services have been offered, as well as all aspects of services to the children.
(b)If all parties are present for the Conference, the judge shall conduct the conference off the record and summarize what happened at the Conference for the record at its conclusion. If the parents are not present, the Court shall conduct the entire Conference on the record.
c. Disclosure of Service Plan: DCFS or its assigns shall provide the most recent service plan to all parties seven days before the Court Family Conference. In the event that the service plan has not been filed with the court prior to the Court Family Conference, the court shall convene the Court Family Conference and discussion shall focus on services that would appropriately be included in the plan. Such discussion should ensure that the family and the caseworker have a clear understanding of the expectations of the court.
d. (a) The discussion at the Court Family Conference shall focus on eliminating the causes or conditions that contributed to the findings of probable cause or the existence of urgent and immediate necessity. At the conclusion of the discussion the court shall set a target date for unsupervised visitation, return home, and/or closure whenever possible. The court will caution the parties that the dates are targets, and that the court will still need to determine the appropriateness of unsupervised visits, return home, or case closure upon hearing all evidence presented. If the court determines that setting a target date for unsupervised visitation, return home, or closure is not possible or premature, the judge shall make clear to the parties and to the caseworker what needs to be accomplished before the court will consider setting a target date for unsupervised visitation, return home, and/or case closure. The judge shall set out clear time frames, whenever possible, in which the court expects the parties and the caseworker to accomplish what must be done.
(b) The discussion at the Court Family Conference shall include services for the parent and child contained in the service plan, which was filed with the court. The plan for visits between the parent(s), child and/or any siblings shall also be reviewed. Agreed upon changes are incorporated into the court order and initialed by the caseworker, the attorneys, and the family. Within 5 days of the CFC the caseworker will take steps to update information in SACWICS with any changes and distribute the revised plan to all parties.
(c) If the service plan was not available prior to beginning the Court Family Conference, the judge shall commence and continue the Court Family Conference to ensure that the case plan is completed and that it addresses the needs of the family and the expectations of the court. The court shall commence and continue the Conference to the earliest date possible allowing sufficient time to do the necessary work. Services and visitation plans agreed upon at this commenced and continued Conference and included into the Court Family Conference Order shall be incorporated into the service plan being developed by DCFS and/or its assigns. That revised service plan shall be reviewed at the subsequent Court Family Conference, if one is scheduled, when the plan is available to the court and all parties.
e. The Judge determines whether a referral to mediation might advance progress in the case. A referral to mediation at this stage of the case would be appropriate to address, among other things, the following issues:
(a) Communication and relationship building;
(b) Visitation scheduling and facilitation, and alternatives for supervision;
(c) Exploring placement options within the parents’ extended families.;
(d)Service and visitation issues when parents do not participate in a Court Family Conference due to pending criminal charges. f. The Court Family Conference shall be scheduled in conjunction with the Case Management Conference. The sequence in which these conferences are held shall be at the discretion of the judge.
g. The Judge shall summarize the outcome of the Court Family Conference on the record, and enter all appropriate orders including, but not limited to, the CFC order.
This General Order supercedes Child Protection Division General Orders 05-15 and 07-1.
The order is entered this date, March 19, 2009, and shall be spread of record and published.
Patricia M. Martin
Child Protection Division