Court receives funding to expand adoption program

The Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division is anxious to expand a program that has helped expedite adoption permanency for children in foster care. The court has been selected to receive $200,000 from a $2 million federal grant awarded to the state for the work being done to establish specialized permanency dockets in Michigan courts. The money will be used to expand the scope of the Circuit Court's Adoption Permanency Program by adding a full-time permanency coordinator position through December 2012 and extending the docket to an additional judge and referee. Cases where a termination of parental rights has been implemented will be transferred to the permanency docket under either Judge Linda Hallmark or Judge Cheryl Matthews and referees Martin Alvin or Scott Hamilton.

In 2008, permanency forums were created to bring the courts in Michigan together to discuss how to get children out of foster care and into permanent families faster. As a result of these forums, Oakland County, in a multi-year collaboration with the Michigan Department of Human Services, private adoption agencies, and representatives from the CASA program of the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County, the Foster Care Review Board, and the lawyer-guardian ad litems appointed for children, set up an Adoption Permanency Project and Study that examined the progress of cases awaiting adoption finalization. The lessons learned from this study were of value not only to the court's adoption process, but could be replicated by courts throughout Michigan.

Judge Elizabeth Pezzetti, presiding judge of the Family Division, stated: "Building on the success of a program that has made the adoption of children faster, the court is grateful to have been given $200,000 in funding to increase the overall effectiveness of its program and improve upon the time it takes to move adoptive children into permanent families."

The Oakland County study has received national attention. It was awarded the "Justice Achievement Award" at the National Association for Court Management (NACM) Annual Conference this past July in Las Vegas, Nevada, as "an outstanding achievement and meritorious project that enhanced the administration of justice."

Persons wishing to apply for the permanency coordinator position are directed to the Oakland County Human Services Department at www.oakgov.com/jobs under the "DHS Liaison" job title.

For any other questions, contact William P. Bartlam, manager of Judicial Support in the Circuit Court, at bartlamb@oakgov.com, or Lauran F. Howard, chief of Juvenile and Adoption Services, at howardl@oakgov.com.

Published: Wed, Aug 17, 2011

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