Maricopa County’s top juvenile court judge is revealing a “weak point” in the child welfare system.
“There's a lot of resources that we try to gather around a family when they have had their kids removed, but at the end of the case, we weren't really checking in to find out what's next,” Presiding Judge Colleen McNally said.
McNally says she’s now asking parents to complete a Community Connection Plan as they leave the DCS supervision. She says simple resources like child care, substance abuse counseling and food baskets can help a struggling family avoid another crisis.
As many as 400 new child dependency cases are filed each month in Maricopa County. They involve abuse or neglect allegations serious enough to remove children from their homes.
Before deciding to reunite a family, Judge McNally gets input from up to a dozen sources: relatives, guardians ad litem, social service providers, and DCS case managers. Most importantly, she monitors the parents’ actions.
“When someone engages in services, and they are showing up, it tells me they want this,” McNally said. “It doesn't tell me if they are going to do it or not, so that's something you keep watching.”
Judge McNally estimates only one-third of child dependency cases end with successful family reunification.