Children's Justice Initiative (CJI)


Mission Statement: To ensure that children who have experienced abuse and neglect attain safe, stable, permanent homes and improved well-being.

The Children's Justice Initiative (CJI) is a collaboration between the Minnesota Judicial Branch and the Minnesota Department of Human Services. These two state entities work closely with the local juvenile courts, court administrators, social services agencies, county attorneys, guardians ad litem, attorneys for parents and children, tribes, and other key stakeholders in each of Minnesota's 87 counties. The overall objectives are to improve child well-being and timely find safe, stable, permanent homes for children who experience abuse and neglect, 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 goal is for all stakeholders to operate "through the eyes of the child" so as to achieve child safety, permanency, and well-being.

Implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

To learn more about the FFPSA and how the Minnesota Judicial Branch is implementing its court review requirements, visit the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) Help Topic.

Hon. Robert Blaeser Indian Child Welfare Excellence Award

The Hon. Robert Blaeser Indian Child Welfare Excellence Award is presented annually by the Children’s Justice Initiative (CJI) to an individual or group who during the past year (October 2022 through September 2023) has demonstrated excellence in Indian child welfare advocacy by:
  • Making a significant contribution toward achieving full compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA); and/or
  • Improving the well-being of American Indian children and families who experience the child welfare system.
Individual nominees may be involved in child welfare in any role, including judges, court administration, county attorneys, social services workers, attorneys for children and parents, guardians ad litem, tribal representatives, or others who work to improve outcomes for American Indian children and families.  Nominees may also include groups such as CJI Teams, county child welfare agencies, or other groups.
Nomination forms must be submitted no later than 5:00 pm on Wednesday November 8, 2023 to the email address stated in the attachment.  The Children’s Justice Initiative plans to present the award to the recipient(s) at the final 2023 meeting of CJI ICWA Subcommittee on November 29, 2023.
Hon. Robert Blaeser Award - Overview, Criteria & Nomination Form (2023)
The Minnesota Judges Juvenile Protection Benchbook is being updated to make it consistent with current federal and state statutes, rules, and case law. Children's Justice Initiative (CJI) staff hope to publish a revised version in Spring 2024. For questions, please contact CJI

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 (EPC), 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 regularly updated to reflect revisions to federal and state statutes, rules, and case law. You are encouraged to submit comments regarding suggested issues or revisions using the Comment Form available in Chapter 41 or by contacting CJI directly.
In the Best Interests of Your Child (18 min) is an orientation to 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., Emergency Protective Care, 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 Children's Justice Initiative (CJI) judges, court administrators, county social services agencies, tribal social service agencies, Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program Managers and Coordinators, and all attorneys representing parents in child protection cases. 

Orientation to the court process for Minnesota’s child protection system

တၢ်ဒုးသ့၃်ညါတၢ်ဂ့ၢ်ဘၣ်ထွဲဒီးမံၣ်နံၣ်စိထၣ်ကွီၢ်ဘျီၣ်အကျိၤအကျဲလၢတၢ်ဒီသဒၢဖိသၣ်အခွဲးအယာ်ဝဲၤကျိၤအဂီၢ် (Karen)

Faahfaahin ku saabsan habka uu u shaqeeyo nidaamka badbaadada nolosha ubadka gobolka Minnesota (Somali)

Orientación sobre el proceso judicial en el sistema de protección para menores de Minnesota (Spanish)

Kev qhia txog tus txheej txheem hais plaub rau Minnesota txoj hau kev tiv thaiv menyuam (Hmong)

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. 

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.  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 (February 2016)

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

CJI Judicial Leadership Toolkit

A new CJI Judicial Leadership Toolkit is now available to help judges lead and facilitate successful and effective county CJI teams. The toolkit includes an overview of the program, CJI team resources, descriptions of state and county roles and responsibilities, and templates designed to support team organization.
CJI County Practice Guide: Best Practices for Achieving Safety, Permanency and Well-Being for Abused and Neglected Children
The CJI County Practice Guide is used by County CJI Teams to compare a county’s current practices related to CHIPS, TPR, and Permanency case processing with the practices described in the Guide.  County CJI Teams should identify practice areas needing improvement and develop an action for implementing change. 
CJI Permanency Action Plan: Core Strategies to Improve Timely Achievement of Permanency
The CJI Permanency Action Plan lists statutory requirements related to permanency.  County CJI Teams are encouraged to discuss the requirements, identify practice areas where improvements could be made, and develop a plan to implement improved practices.

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

Children's Justice Initiative
Minnesota Judicial Center
25 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Suite 105

St. Paul, MN 55155


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General CJI Inquiries

Questions about the permanency technical assistance workshops