Text: S.2272 — 106th Congress (1999-2000)All Information (Except Text)

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Public Law No: 106-314 (10/17/2000)

 
[106th Congress Public Law 314]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]


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[DOCID: f:publ314.106]


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           STRENGTHENING ABUSE AND NEGLECT COURTS ACT OF 2000

[[Page 114 STAT. 1266]]

Public Law 106-314
106th Congress

                                 An Act


 
   To improve the administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
Nation's abuse and neglect courts and for other purposes consistent with 
the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. <<NOTE: Oct. 17, 2000 -  [S. 
                                2272]>> 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress <<NOTE: Strengthening Abuse and 
Neglect Courts Act of 2000. Inter- governmental relations.>> assembled,

SECTION 1. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Strengthening Abuse and Neglect 
Courts Act of 2000''.

SEC. 2. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> FINDINGS.

    Congress finds the following:
            (1) Under both Federal and State law, the courts play a 
        crucial and essential role in the Nation's child welfare system 
        and in ensuring safety, stability, and permanence for abused and 
        neglected children under the supervision of that system.
            (2) The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 
        105-89; 111 Stat. 2115) establishes explicitly for the first 
        time in Federal law that a child's health and safety must be the 
        paramount consideration when any decision is made regarding a 
        child in the Nation's child welfare system.
            (3) The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 promotes 
        stability and permanence for abused and neglected children by 
        requiring timely decisionmaking in proceedings to determine 
        whether children can safely return to their families or whether 
        they should be moved into safe and stable adoptive homes or 
        other permanent family arrangements outside the foster care 
        system.
            (4) To avoid unnecessary and lengthy stays in the foster 
        care system, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 
        specifically requires, among other things, that States move to 
        terminate the parental rights of the parents of those children 
        who have been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months.
            (5) While essential to protect children and to carry out the 
        general purposes of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, 
        the accelerated timelines for the termination of parental rights 
        and the other requirements imposed under that Act increase the 
        pressure on the Nation's already overburdened abuse and neglect 
        courts.
            (6) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would be substantially 
        improved by the acquisition and implementation of computerized 
        case-tracking systems to identify and eliminate existing 
        backlogs, to move abuse and neglect caseloads forward in a

[[Page 114 STAT. 1267]]

        timely manner, and to move children into safe and stable 
        families. Such systems could also be used to evaluate the 
        effectiveness of such courts in meeting the purposes of the 
        amendments made by, and provisions of, the Adoption and Safe 
        Families Act of 1997.
            (7) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would also be improved by the 
        identification and implementation of projects designed to 
        eliminate the backlog of abuse and neglect cases, including the 
        temporary hiring of additional judges, extension of court hours, 
        and other projects designed to reduce existing caseloads.
            (8) The administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would be further strengthened 
        by improving the quality and availability of training for 
        judges, court personnel, agency attorneys, guardians ad litem, 
        volunteers who participate in court-appointed special advocate 
        (CASA) programs, and attorneys who represent the children and 
        the parents of children in abuse and neglect proceedings.
            (9) While recognizing that abuse and neglect courts in this 
        country are already committed to the quality administration of 
        justice, the performance of such courts would be even further 
        enhanced by the development of models and educational 
        opportunities that reinforce court projects that have already 
        been developed, including models for case-flow procedures, case 
        management, representation of children, automated interagency 
        interfaces, and ``best practices'' standards.
            (10) Judges, magistrates, commissioners, and other judicial 
        officers play a central and vital role in ensuring that 
        proceedings in our Nation's abuse and neglect courts are run 
        efficiently and effectively. The performance of those 
        individuals in such courts can only be further enhanced by 
        training, seminars, and an ongoing opportunity to exchange ideas 
        with their peers.
            (11) Volunteers who participate in court-appointed special 
        advocate (CASA) programs play a vital role as the eyes and ears 
        of abuse and neglect courts in proceedings conducted by, or 
        under the supervision of, such courts and also bring increased 
        public scrutiny of the abuse and neglect court system. The 
        Nation's abuse and neglect courts would benefit from an 
        expansion of this program to currently underserved communities.
            (12) Improved computerized case-tracking systems, 
        comprehensive training, and development of, and education on, 
        model abuse and neglect court systems, particularly with respect 
        to underserved areas, would significantly further the purposes 
        of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 by reducing the 
        average length of an abused and neglected child's stay in foster 
        care, improving the quality of decision-making and court 
        services provided to children and families, and increasing the 
        number of adoptions.

SEC. 3. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Abuse and neglect courts.--The term ``abuse and neglect 
        courts'' means the State and local courts that carry out State 
        or local laws requiring proceedings (conducted by or under the 
        supervision of the courts)--

[[Page 114 STAT. 1268]]

                    (A) that implement part B and part E of title IV of 
                the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 et 
                seq.) (including preliminary disposition of such 
                proceedings);
                    (B) that determine whether a child was abused or 
                neglected;
                    (C) that determine the advisability or 
                appropriateness of placement in a family foster home, 
                group home, or a special residential care facility; or
                    (D) that determine any other legal disposition of a 
                child in the abuse and neglect court system.
            (2) Agency attorney.--The term ``agency attorney'' means an 
        attorney or other individual, including any government attorney, 
        district attorney, attorney general, State attorney, county 
        attorney, city solicitor or attorney, corporation counsel, or 
        privately retained special prosecutor, who represents the State 
        or local agency administrating the programs under parts B and E 
        of title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 
        670 et seq.) in a proceeding conducted by, or under the 
        supervision of, an abuse and neglect court, including a 
        proceeding for termination of parental rights.
SEC. 4. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> GRANTS TO STATE COURTS AND 
                    LOCAL COURTS TO AUTOMATE THE DATA COLLECTION 
                    AND TRACKING OF PROCEEDINGS IN ABUSE AND 
                    NEGLECT COURTS.

    (a) Authority To Award Grants.--
            (1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), the Attorney 
        General, acting through the Office of Juvenile Justice and 
        Delinquency Prevention of the Office of Justice Programs, shall 
        award grants in accordance with this section to State courts and 
        local courts for the purposes of--
                    (A) enabling such courts to develop and implement 
                automated data collection and case-tracking systems for 
                proceedings conducted by, or under the supervision of, 
                an abuse and neglect court;
                    (B) encouraging the replication of such systems in 
                abuse and neglect courts in other jurisdictions; and
                    (C) requiring the use of such systems to evaluate a 
                court's performance in implementing the requirements of 
                parts B and E of title IV of the Social Security Act (42 
                U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 et seq.).
            (2) Limitations.--
                    (A) Number of grants.--Not less than 20 nor more 
                than 50 grants may be awarded under this section.
                    (B) Per state limitation.--Not more than 2 grants 
                authorized under this section may be awarded per State.
                    (C) Use of grants.--Funds provided under a grant 
                made under this section may only be used for the purpose 
                of developing, implementing, or enhancing automated data 
                collection and case-tracking systems for proceedings 
                conducted by, or under the supervision of, an abuse and 
                neglect court.

    (b) Application.--
            (1) In general.--A State court or local court may submit an 
        application for a grant authorized under this section at such 
        time and in such manner as the Attorney General may determine.

[[Page 114 STAT. 1269]]

            (2) Information required.--An application for a grant 
        authorized under this section shall contain the following:
                    (A) A description of a proposed plan for the 
                development, implementation, and maintenance of an 
                automated data collection and case-tracking system for 
                proceedings conducted by, or under the supervision of, 
                an abuse and neglect court, including a proposed budget 
                for the plan and a request for a specific funding 
                amount.
                    (B) A description of the extent to which such plan 
                and system are able to be replicated in abuse and 
                neglect courts of other jurisdictions that specifies the 
                common case-tracking data elements of the proposed 
                system, including, at a minimum--
                          (i) identification of relevant judges, court, 
                      and agency personnel;
                          (ii) records of all court proceedings with 
                      regard to the abuse and neglect case, including 
                      all court findings and orders (oral and written); 
                      and
                          (iii) relevant information about the subject 
                      child, including family information and the reason 
                      for court supervision.
                    (C) In the case of an application submitted by a 
                local court, a description of how the plan to implement 
                the proposed system was developed in consultation with 
                related State courts, particularly with regard to a 
                State court improvement plan funded under section 13712 
                of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (42 
                U.S.C. 670 note) if there is such a plan in the State.
                    (D) In the case of an application that is submitted 
                by a State court, a description of how the proposed 
                system will integrate with a State court improvement 
                plan funded under section 13712 of such Act if there is 
                such a plan in the State.
                    (E) After consultation with the State agency 
                responsible for the administration of parts B and E of 
                title IV of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et 
                seq.; 670 et seq.)--
                          (i) a description of the coordination of the 
                      proposed system with other child welfare data 
                      collection systems, including the statewide 
                      automated child welfare information system 
                      (SACWIS) and the adoption and foster care analysis 
                      and reporting system (AFCARS) established pursuant 
                      to section 479 of the Social Security Act (42 
                      U.S.C. 679); and
                          (ii) an assurance that such coordination will 
                      be implemented and maintained.
                    (F) Identification of an independent third party 
                that will conduct ongoing evaluations of the feasibility 
                and implementation of the plan and system and a 
                description of the plan for conducting such evaluations.
                    (G) A description or identification of a proposed 
                funding source for completion of the plan (if 
                applicable) and maintenance of the system after the 
                conclusion of the period for which the grant is to be 
                awarded.
                    (H) An assurance that any contract entered into 
                between the State court or local court and any other 
                entity

[[Page 114 STAT. 1270]]

                that is to provide services for the development, 
                implementation, or maintenance of the system under the 
                proposed plan will require the entity to agree to allow 
                for replication of the services provided, the plan, and 
                the system, and to refrain from asserting any 
                proprietary interest in such services for purposes of 
                allowing the plan and system to be replicated in another 
                jurisdiction.
                    (I) An assurance that the system established under 
                the plan will provide data that allows for evaluation 
                (at least on an annual basis) of the following 
                information:
                          (i) The total number of cases that are filed 
                      in the abuse and neglect court.
                          (ii) The number of cases assigned to each 
                      judge who presides over the abuse and neglect 
                      court.
                          (iii) The average length of stay of children 
                      in foster care.
                          (iv) With respect to each child under the 
                      jurisdiction of the court--
                                    (I) the number of episodes of 
                                placement in foster care;
                                    (II) the number of days placed in 
                                foster care and the type of placement 
                                (foster family home, group home, or 
                                special residential care facility);
                                    (III) the number of days of in-home 
                                supervision; and
                                    (IV) the number of separate foster 
                                care placements.
                          (v) The number of adoptions, guardianships, or 
                      other permanent dispositions finalized.
                          (vi) The number of terminations of parental 
                      rights.
                          (vii) The number of child abuse and neglect 
                      proceedings closed that had been pending for 2 or 
                      more years.
                          (viii) With respect to each proceeding 
                      conducted by, or under the supervision of, an 
                      abuse and neglect court--
                                    (I) the timeliness of each stage of 
                                the proceeding from initial filing 
                                through legal finalization of a 
                                permanency plan (for both contested and 
                                uncontested hearings);
                                    (II) the number of adjournments, 
                                delays, and continuances occurring 
                                during the proceeding, including 
                                identification of the party requesting 
                                each adjournment, delay, or continuance 
                                and the reasons given for the request;
                                    (III) the number of courts that 
                                conduct or supervise the proceeding for 
                                the duration of the abuse and neglect 
                                case;
                                    (IV) the number of judges assigned 
                                to the proceeding for the duration of 
                                the abuse and neglect case; and
                                    (V) the number of agency attorneys, 
                                children's attorneys, parent's 
                                attorneys, guardians ad litem, and 
                                volunteers participating in a court-
                                appointed special advocate (CASA) 
                                program assigned to the proceeding 
                                during the duration of the abuse and 
                                neglect case.

[[Page 114 STAT. 1271]]

                    (J) A description of how the proposed system will 
                reduce the need for paper files and ensure prompt action 
                so that cases are appropriately listed with national and 
                regional adoption exchanges, and public and private 
                adoption services.
                    (K) An assurance that the data collected in 
                accordance with subparagraph (I) will be made available 
                to relevant Federal, State, and local government 
                agencies and to the public.
                    (L) An assurance that the proposed system is 
                consistent with other civil and criminal information 
                requirements of the Federal Government.
                    (M) An assurance that the proposed system will 
                provide notice of timeframes required under the Adoption 
                and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89; 111 
                Stat. 2115) for individual cases to ensure prompt 
                attention and compliance with such requirements.

    (c) Conditions for Approval of Applications.--
            (1) Matching requirement.--
                    (A) In general.--A State court or local court 
                awarded a grant under this section shall expend $1 for 
                every $3 awarded under the grant to carry out the 
                development, implementation, and maintenance of the 
                automated data collection and case-tracking system under 
                the proposed plan.
                    (B) Waiver for hardship.--The Attorney General may 
                waive or modify the matching requirement described in 
                subparagraph (A) in the case of any State court or local 
                court that the Attorney General determines would suffer 
                undue hardship as a result of being subject to the 
                requirement.
                    (C) Non-federal expenditures.--
                          (i) Cash or in kind.--State court or local 
                      court expenditures required under subparagraph (A) 
                      may be in cash or in kind, fairly evaluated, 
                      including plant, equipment, or services.
                          (ii) No credit for pre-award expenditures.--
                      Only State court or local court expenditures made 
                      after a grant has been awarded under this section 
                      may be counted for purposes of determining whether 
                      the State court or local court has satisfied the 
                      matching expenditure requirement under 
                      subparagraph (A).
            (2) Notification to state or appropriate child welfare 
        agency.--No application for a grant authorized under this 
        section may be approved unless the State court or local court 
        submitting the application demonstrates to the satisfaction of 
        the Attorney General that the court has provided the State, in 
        the case of a State court, or the appropriate child welfare 
        agency, in the case of a local court, with notice of the 
        contents and submission of the application.
            (3) Considerations.--In evaluating an application for a 
        grant under this section the Attorney General shall consider the 
        following:
                    (A) The extent to which the system proposed in the 
                application may be replicated in other jurisdictions.
                    (B) The extent to which the proposed system is 
                consistent with the provisions of, and amendments made 
                by,

[[Page 114 STAT. 1272]]

                the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 
                105-89; 111 Stat. 2115), and parts B and E of title IV 
                of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 620 et seq.; 670 
                et seq.).
                    (C) The extent to which the proposed system is 
                feasible and likely to achieve the purposes described in 
                subsection (a)(1).
            (4) Diversity of awards.--The Attorney General shall award 
        grants under this section in a manner that results in a 
        reasonable balance among grants awarded to State courts and 
        grants awarded to local courts, grants awarded to courts located 
        in urban areas and courts located in rural areas, and grants 
        awarded in diverse geographical locations.

    (d) Length of Awards.--No grant may be awarded under this section 
for a period of more than 5 years.
    (e) Availability of Funds.--Funds provided to a State court or local 
court under a grant awarded under this section shall remain available 
until expended without fiscal year limitation.
    (f) Reports.--
            (1) Annual report from grantees.--Each State court or local 
        court that is awarded a grant under this section shall submit an 
        annual report to the Attorney General that contains--
                    (A) a description of the ongoing results of the 
                independent evaluation of the plan for, and 
                implementation of, the automated data collection and 
                case-tracking system funded under the grant; and
                    (B) the information described in subsection 
                (b)(2)(I).
            (2) Interim and final reports from attorney general.--
                    (A) Interim <<NOTE: Effective date.>> reports.--
                Beginning 2 years after the date of enactment of this 
                Act, and biannually thereafter until a final report is 
                submitted in accordance with subparagraph (B), the 
                Attorney General shall submit to Congress interim 
                reports on the grants made under this section.
                    (B) Final <<NOTE: Termination date.>> report.--Not 
                later than 90 days after the termination of all grants 
                awarded under this section, the Attorney General shall 
                submit to Congress a final report evaluating the 
                automated data collection and case-tracking systems 
                funded under such grants and identifying successful 
                models of such systems that are suitable for replication 
                in other jurisdictions. The Attorney General shall 
                ensure that a copy of such final report is transmitted 
                to the highest State court in each State.

    (g) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be 
appropriated to carry out this section, $10,000,000 for the period of 
fiscal years 2001 through 2005.
SEC. 5. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> GRANTS TO REDUCE PENDING 
                    BACKLOGS OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT CASES TO PROMOTE 
                    PERMANENCY FOR ABUSED AND NEGLECTED CHILDREN.

    (a) Authority To Award Grants.--The Attorney General, acting through 
the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the Office 
of Justice Programs and in collaboration with the Secretary of Health 
and Human Services, shall award

[[Page 114 STAT. 1273]]

grants in accordance with this section to State courts and local courts 
for the purposes of--
            (1) promoting the permanency goals established in the 
        Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89; 111 
        Stat. 2115); and
            (2) enabling such courts to reduce existing backlogs of 
        cases pending in abuse and neglect courts, especially with 
        respect to cases to terminate parental rights and cases in which 
        parental rights to a child have been terminated but an adoption 
        of the child has not yet been finalized.

    (b) Application.--A State court or local court shall submit an 
application for a grant under this section, in such form and manner as 
the Attorney General shall require, that contains a description of the 
following:
            (1) The barriers to achieving the permanency goals 
        established in the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 that 
        have been identified.
            (2) The size and nature of the backlogs of children awaiting 
        termination of parental rights or finalization of adoption.
            (3) The strategies the State court or local court proposes 
        to use to reduce such backlogs and the plan and timetable for 
        doing so.
            (4) How the grant funds requested will be used to assist the 
        implementation of the strategies described in paragraph (3).

    (c) Use of Funds.--Funds provided under a grant awarded under this 
section may be used for any purpose that the Attorney General determines 
is likely to successfully achieve the purposes described in subsection 
(a), including temporarily--
            (1) establishing night court sessions for abuse and neglect 
        courts;
            (2) hiring additional judges, magistrates, commissioners, 
        hearing officers, referees, special masters, and other judicial 
        personnel for such courts;
            (3) hiring personnel such as clerks, administrative support 
        staff, case managers, mediators, and attorneys for such courts; 
        or
            (4) extending the operating hours of such courts.

    (d) Number of Grants.--Not less than 15 nor more than 20 grants 
shall be awarded under this section.
    (e) Availability of Funds.--Funds awarded under a grant made under 
this section shall remain available for expenditure by a grantee for a 
period not to exceed 3 years from the date of the grant award.
    (f) Report <<NOTE: Deadline.>> on Use of Funds.--Not later than the 
date that is halfway through the period for which a grant is awarded 
under this section, and 90 days after the end of such period, a State 
court or local court awarded a grant under this section shall submit a 
report to the Attorney General that includes the following:
            (1) The barriers to the permanency goals established in the 
        Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 that are or have been 
        addressed with grant funds.
            (2) The nature of the backlogs of children that were pursued 
        with grant funds.
            (3) The specific strategies used to reduce such backlogs.
            (4) The progress that has been made in reducing such 
        backlogs, including the number of children in such backlogs--

[[Page 114 STAT. 1274]]

                    (A) whose parental rights have been terminated; and
                    (B) whose adoptions have been finalized.
            (5) Any additional information that the Attorney General 
        determines would assist jurisdictions in achieving the 
        permanency goals established in the Adoption and Safe Families 
        Act of 1997.

    (g) Authorization of Appropriations.--There are authorized to be 
appropriated for the period of fiscal years 2001 and 2002 $10,000,000 
for the purpose of making grants under this section.
SEC. 6. <<NOTE: 42 USC 670 note.>> GRANTS TO EXPAND THE COURT-
                    APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE PROGRAM IN 
                    UNDERSERVED AREAS.

    (a) Grants To Expand CASA Programs in Underserved Areas.--The 
Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency 
Prevention of the Department of Justice shall make a grant to the 
National Court-Appointed Special Advocate Association for the purposes 
of--
            (1) expanding the recruitment of, and building the capacity 
        of, court-appointed special advocate programs located in the 15 
        largest urban areas;
            (2) developing regional, multijurisdictional court-appointed 
        special advocate programs serving rural areas; and
            (3) providing training and supervision of volunteers in 
        court-appointed special advocate programs.

    (b) Limitation on Administrative Expenditures.--Not more than 5 
percent of the grant made under this subsection may be used for 
administrative expenditures.
    (c) Determination of Urban and Rural Areas.--For purposes of 
administering the grant authorized under this subsection, the 
Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency 
Prevention of the Department of Justice shall determine whether an area 
is one of the 15 largest urban areas or a rural area in accordance with 
the practices of, and statistical information compiled by, the Bureau of 
the Census.
    (d) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be 
appropriated to make the grant authorized under this section, $5,000,000 
for the period of fiscal years 2001 and 2002.

    Approved October 17, 2000.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY--S. 2272:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 146 (2000):
            Sept. 26, considered and passed Senate.
            Oct. 3, considered and passed House.

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