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Collaboration Between the Court and IV-D Agencies in Oklahoma

Amy E. Wilson
OCSS Appellate Counsel
Oklahoma Child Support Services

Juvenile courts and state IV-D programs are necessary, if often reluctant, partners. Each set of players has its own goals which seem on their face to be mutually exclusive.

The overarching goal of all the juvenile court players is family reunification, or in the absence of that possibility, a permanency plan for the child and a “clean” adoption” when that step becomes necessary.

On the other hand, the IV-D program goals include establishing legal paternity and child support, promoting the financial responsibility of parents for children and helping to reduce the length of stay in foster care by getting parents involved at the beginning of the case as well as providing additional grounds for termination of rights when reunification is not successful.

These goals appear mutually exclusive, but at the most basic level, juvenile courts and IV-D programs share the same basic, fundamental goals: protecting the best interest of the child, ensuring due process for all parties and complying with state and federal law.

In Oklahoma, the state IV-D program juvenile pilot office was originally met with skepticism. However, over the few years the office has been serving the county with the largest number of open deprived cases in the state, it has become clear that the IV-D program can be a valuable partner in the juvenile court system.

The IV-D program in the courtroom can provide resources to the court and the parties that are overlooked or inaccessible in its absence. Child support staff can help identify the proper parties for the action, in that we receive information about alleged and acknowledged fathers—usually before the children become part of the juvenile system. Child support can also help identify possible placement options by finding fathers who may be able to assume custody or provide extended family placement options.

Child support orders can get parents involved in reunification or can assist with permanency planning. Child support can identify possible financial resources to assist the former custodial parent to work a reunification plan and provide a stable home for the child once returned to the parent’s custody.

On the adoption front, child support can help protect adoptions by identifying legal fathers whose rights must be terminated prior to adoption. Child support can provide location information for legal and alleged fathers to assist in due diligence searches. Child support can work with juvenile court partners to establish and challenge paternity within the parameters of the law, ensuring that due process concerns are addressed and that adoptions will be impervious to challenge.

From the Oklahoma IV-D juvenile court pilot office, it is clear that IV-D child support offices have a great deal to offer as necessary partners in the juvenile court system.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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