The response to COVID-19 has impacted access to courthouses and may change the way cases are handled.
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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 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, and to improve child well-being. 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.

Response to COVID-19

Minnesota's court and child protection systems are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that balances public health and safety with access to courts in order to continue monitoring child protection cases to ensure the safety, well-being, and best interests of each child. Following are links to state, federal, and national resources and tools that are available to support this work in consideration of COVID-19 guidance. Visit the COVID-19 page for more information and links to additional resources. In particular, see the COVID-19 Resources from other organizations link at the bottom of the page.
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  Permanency 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. 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.  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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Questions about the permanency technical assistance workshops