Children's Justice Initiative (CJI)

The Children's Justice Initiative (CJI) is a collaboration between the Minnesota Judicial Branch and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The purpose of the initiative is for these two state entities to work closely with the local juvenile courts, social services agencies, county attorneys, public defenders, court administrators, guardians ad litem, tribes, and other key stakeholders in each of Minnesota's 87 counties to improve the processing of child protection cases and the outcomes for abused and neglected children.

The overall objectives are to improve child wellbeing and timely find safe, stable, permanent homes for abused and neglected children, first through reunification with the child's parents if that is safe or, if not, through another permanent placement option. When identifying and implementing improvements, the project's goal is for all stakeholders to operate "through the eyes of the child" so as to achieve child safety, permanency, and well-being.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Children’s Justice Initiative is to ensure that in a fair and timely manner abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile protection court system have safe, stable, permanent families.

The CJI Mission will be achieved through a statewide collaborative that develops and institutes best practices related to child protection case processing procedures for relevant professionals.

Values CJI Promotes

  • Child centered (operating “through the eyes of the child”)
  • Timeliness
  • Safety and stability of the child
  • A permanent, nurturing family for each child through reunification, adoption, or transfer of custody to a relative
  • Recognition of cultural, social, and economic differences
  • System accountability
  • Due process protection of the parties

Goals CJI Will Meet

  • Form a child protection system collaborative aimed at providing a permanent, nurturing family for the child
  • Implement case processing best practices
  • Establish an assessment process aimed at continuous improvement of practices, policies, and procedures
  • Strengthen judicial oversight of child protection cases
If you have a question about the Children's Justice Initiative, click on the Contact Us tab to contact the CJI Managers: Ann Ahlstrom and Judy Nord, Staff Attorneys

The Children's Justice Initiative is committed to providing ongoing training to judges, attorneys, social workers, guardians ad litem, court administration, and other child protection system stakeholders in an effort to improve practice and child safety, permanency, and wellbeing for abused and neglected children and their families. Click on event name for more details.
  Materials for the following conferences are available upon request.  Make sure you specifiy which conference materials you are requesting.
  • 2014 Understanding and Applying ICWA at the Local Level: Purpose, Strategies, Resources and Practice (Duluth, August 21-24, 2014)
  • 2014 Spring CJI Leadership Meetings
  • 2014 CHIPS Parents' Attorneys Core Skills Training (April 16, 2014)
  • 2014 "Foundations 48" Mini-Conference: Ideas and Concepts For Improving The Child Protection System (Ramsey County CJI Team)   (March 24, 2014)
  • 2013 CHIPS Parents' Attorneys Core Skills Conference (May 15-17, 2013)
  • 2013 Right from the Beginning: Permanency Planning 2013 (Nov. 1, 2013)
  • 2012 Regional CJI Team Meetings: Trauma Informed Practice and Fostering Connections
  • 2011 CHIPS Parents' Attorneys Core Skills Conference (September 2011)
  • 2010 Regional CJI Team Meetings
  • 2007 "The Brain Chemistry of Addiction" by Carol Ackley
Request Conference Materials
To perform their judicial oversight role required under federal and state law, and to better serve children and families, judges need a clear description of how best to fulfill their judicial responsibilities in child abuse and neglect cases.  To that end, the Children's Justice Initiative (CJI) has published the Minnesota Judges Juvenile Protection Benchbook.  The Benchbook sets forth the elements of a high-quality judicial process at each stage of a child protection proceeding. Consistent with federal and state statutes, federal and state case law, and the Minnesota Rules of Juvenile Protection Procedure, the Benchbook specifies the necessary elements of a fair, thorough, and timely court process.  For each type of hearing (e.g., Emergency Protective Care, Admit/Deny, Adjudication, Disposition, Disposition Review, Permanent Placement Determination, etc.), the Benchbook identifies the specific findings, conclusions, and orders required at each stage of the proceeding.

The Benchbook is being made accessible to all child protection system stakeholders so that they also are better able to comply with federal and state laws and to serve children and families involved in child protection court cases. The Benchbook will be reqularly updated to reflect revisions to federal and state statutes, rules, and case law. You are encourage to submit comments regarding suggested issues or revisions using the Comment Form available in Chapter 41 or directly to the CJI staff using the link below.

Ch. 00  Title Pages
Ch. 00  Table of Contents 
Ch. 01  Introduction and Users Guide
Ch. 02  Permermancy Timeline, Flowchart and Judicial Determinations
Ch. 03  Definitions
Ch. 04  Jurisdiction and Venue
Ch. 05  Key Permanency Planning Principles
Ch. 06  Basic Juvenile Court Concepts
Ch. 07  Ex Parte Emergency Protective Care Proceeding
Ch. 08  EPC Hearing
Ch. 09  Admit-Deny Hearing and Scheduling Order
Ch. 10  Pretrial Hearing
Ch. 11  Trial - CHIPS Proceeding
Ch. 12  Adjudication
Ch. 13  Disposition Hearing
Ch. 14  Disposition Review Hearing
Ch. 15  6-Month Permanency Progress Review Hearing 
Ch. 16  12-Month Permanent Placement Determination Hearing (Admit/Deny Hearing on Permanency Petition)
Ch. 17  Trial - TPR or Other Permanency Proceeding
Ch. 18  Post-Permanency Review Hearings
Ch. 19  Post-Trial Motions and Appeal
Ch. 20  Voluntary Placement and Voluntary Foster Care for Treatment
Ch. 21  Filing and Service and Summons and Notice
Ch. 22  Access to Hearings and Court Files
Ch. 23  Parties and Participants
Ch. 24  Appointment of Guardian ad Litem and Counsel
Ch. 25  Failure to Appear and Default Procedures
Ch. 26  Discovery
Ch. 27 Judicial Notice
Ch. 28  Case Plans: Protective Services Case Plans and Out of Home Placement Plans
Ch. 29  Bypassing CHIPS and Reunification Efforts
Ch. 30  Placement Issues and Relative Searches
Ch. 31  Visitation Parent and Sibling
Ch. 32  Concurrent Permanency Planning
Ch. 32  DHS Concurrent Permanency Planning Guide 
Ch. 33  Immigration Issues
Ch. 34  Case Resolution Options
Ch. 35  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Cases
Ch. 36  Trial Home Visits
Ch. 37  Essential Concepts of Child Dev., Attachment formation, and Assessing Parenting Capacity
Ch. 38  Overview of Federal Laws
Ch. 39  Case Law Summary
Ch. 40  Table of Authorities
Ch. 41  Comments

In the Best Interests of Your Child (27 min) is an orientation to juvenile court and child protection proceedings.  The purpose of the video is to:
  • Identify the people who will be involved in the child protection case and who will be in the courtroom (e.g., judge, court reporter, court attendant, county attorney, social worker, guardian ad litem, attorneys, etc.);
  • Explain the parent's legal rights and responsibilities;
  • Describe the juvenile court process, including the types of hearings (e.g., EPC, Admit/Deny, Disposition, Review, Permanency) that the parent may be required to attend and what happens at a typical hearing;
  • Explain how the juvenile court process may affect the parent and the child and what will happen after court; and
  • Emphasize that the child's best interests are at stake and timely resolution of the problems causing risk of harm to the child is important to the healthy development of the child. 
The video has been provided to all court administrators, county social services agencies, GAL Program Managers and Coordinators, and all attorneys representing parents in child protection cases. 
Enacted in 2008, Minnesota Statutes chapter 260D - "Child in Voluntary Foster Care for Treatment" governs how parents and county social services agencies place children in residential care or foster care for treatment of a mental illness or a developmental disability.  The law makes it clear that parents do not have to relinquish custody to obtain treatment for their children.  Click here to link to the Timeline:  Voluntary Foster Care for Treatment (260D).

The National Alliance on Mental Illness - Minnesota, has developed a video that explains the legal perspectives and timelines associated with voluntary out-of-home placements, while also highlighting the family's perspective.  Click here to view video: Keeping Families Together Video: Understanding the Legal and Family Perspectives on Voluntary Placement (39 min.)

Keeping Families Together Resource Guide: A Guide for Families to Understand Intensive Treatment Options for Children with Mental Illnesses

Additional information and resources may be found at the National Alliance on Mental Health - Minnesota.

Implementation Guide: How to Establish and Sustain a CJI Team

  • The Implementation Guide is a brief outline of the steps to implement the Children’s Justice Initiative (CJI) in a county. 
  • Each of Minnesota's 87 counties has a CJI Team. Implementation of CJI Teams began in 2001 with 12 pilot counties from a mixture of urban, suburban and rural counties. Sixteen additional counties implemented CJI Teams in 2002, and the remaining 60 counties implemented CJI Teams in 2004. The same process was used as each group of counties was added. Gradually adding the counties was critical to the process as it allowed the enthusiasm from the first groups of counties to spread to each subsequent group of counties as they began to share success stories. The first counties also assisted in mentoring the subsequent groups of counties.

ABA Standards on Legal Representation

National Best Practice Manuals

  • The National Council of Family and Juvenile Court Judges (NCJFCJ) published a best practices manual entitled "Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases" The purpose of the Resource Guidelines is to "set forth the essential elements of properly conducted court hearings." The Resource Guidelines also "describe the requirements of juvenile protection courts in fulfilling the role placed upon them as a result of the federal and state laws." 
  • The NCJFCJ published a second manual entitled "Adoption and Permanency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases" Building upon the foundation of the Resource Guidelines, the purpose of the Adoption and Permanency Guidelines is to "set forth the essential elements of best practice for the court processes that lead to a permanent home for children who cannot be reunified with their families." 
Minnesota's Rules of Juvenile Protection Procedure and Rules of Adoption Procedure are based upon the principles of the Resource Guidelines and the Adoption and Permanency Guidelines.

Mailing Address

CJI Managers
Minnesota Judicial Center (MJC) 
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155


Contact us to request training materials
Contact us with general CJI Inquiries