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November 2009 

Identifying, Locating and Engaging Fathers in Dependency Court Cases

Timely permanency necessitates early identification of both parents, not just the mother. This issue of The Judges' Page newsletter offers perspectives from authors of varying backgrounds on the importance of involving fathers in the dependency court process. Special thanks to Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.) for securing most of the articles. ~J. Dean Lewis, Editor


Identifying, Locating and Engaging Fathers in Dependency Court Cases
J. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Summary: Timely permanency necessitates early identification of both parents, not just the mother. Making every effort to engage fathers is critical, as evidenced by studies showing the positive impact fathers and their families can have on a child's development as well as the negative outcomes demonstrated for children living apart from them. Article...

Engaging Fathers in the Child Protection Process

Judge Leonard Edwards (retired)
Judge-in-Residence, California Administrative Office of the Courts

Summary: If courts are truly going to serve the best interests of children, fathers and their families need to be identified and engaged early in the proceedings. Judges have a significant role to play in the identification of fathers and can greatly influence whether a father will participate in child protection proceedings. Article...

The Role of Support Enforcement Agencies in Identifying, Locating and Engaging Fathers in Dependency Cases
Judge A. Ellen White
Campbell County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
Member, NCJFCJ Board of Trustees

Summary: Child support enforcement agencies help locate nonresident fathers, establish paternity and provide access and visitation grant funding to the states to establish fatherhood engagement initiatives. This article includes links to examples of four state and local court-child support agency collaborations. Article...

Colorado Taking Steps to Empower Fathers
Judge J. Robert Lowenbach
District Court Judge (retired)

Summary: If we believe that children benefit from the involvement of their fathers, it is critical that they feel their participation is welcomed and that the court and other stakeholders truly value involvement. Article...

Fathers Are a Necessary Piece in a Child’s Puzzle of Life
Judge Oscar G. Gabaldón, Jr.
NCJFCJ El Paso Model Court Lead Judge

Summary: The dilemma of the absent father is frequently present in many dependency court cases. This reality calls for consistent and proactive efforts to be undertaken by the judge, child welfare officials, CASA/GAL volunteers, parent and child attorneys and other stakeholders in the dependency court case. Article...

A Model Court for Engaging Fathers
Judge Constance Cohen
Lead Judge, NCJFCJ Model Court, Des Moines, IA

Summary: To the extent that it is safe and realistic, children need and deserve to know their families. Judge Cohen offers requirements and strategies for improved engagement of fathers. Article...

Engaging Fathers in Dependency Hearings
Commissioner Nancy Williamsen
Stanislaus Superior Court, Modesto, CA

Summary: Although a child’s father may not be located at the initial stages of the court process, there needs to be a continuous effort by the child welfare agency to identify and locate every child’s father, including every possible father. But once a father comes to court, the engagement process does not end. Article...

Engaging Fathers in the Juvenile Court Process
Prof. Bruce A. Boyer
Director, Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, Loyola School of Law, Chicago

Summary: Illinois’ laws, rules and procedures around parental notification may serve as a model for the development of practices designed to safeguard the best interests of at-risk children. Article...

The Mentor Father
Hilary Kushins
Drug Court and Training Programs Manager,
Dependency Advocacy Center

Summary: The Mentor Parent Program is designed to provide guidance to parents facing drug and alcohol addiction who, as a result, have had their children removed or are at risk of having their children removed by the Department of Family and Children Services. Article...

The Short End of the Stick: How We're Failing Fathers and Children—and What You Can Do to Change It
Gary C. Seiser
Senior Deputy County Counsel, San Diego, CA
Certified Child Welfare Law Specialist

Summary: The child welfare system isn't the only system to discriminate against fathers; family law does it too. The author shares steps toward remedying this disparity. Article...

Representing Fathers in Dependency Court
Joseph L. Spaeth
Public Defender, Marin County, CA

Summary: Attorneys must overcome obstacles including societal bias and help men exercise the skills and commitment necessary to assume the role of father to their children. Article...

Dads and Paternal Relatives: Using Family Group Decision Making to Refocus the Child Welfare System on the Entire Family Constellation
Ellen Kinney, MA
   Program Assistant, American Humane Association

Molly Jenkins, MSW
   Program Assistant, American Humane Association

With support from Lisa Merkel-Holguin, Director, National Center on Family Group Decision Making, American Humane; and Karen Jenkins, Director, Fatherhood Initiative, American Humane

Summary: Identifying and locating nonresident fathers is the first step to involving them in their children’s lives. Once identified, involving them in family group decision making empowers fathers and paternal relatives to make meaningful investments and commitments in the lives of their children. Article...

Santa Clara County Family Wellness Court
Vickie Scott Grove
Executive Director, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, Milpitas, CA

Summary:  The creation of a family wellness court has forged a unique, system-wide partnership to provide needed services to families and children impacted by substance abuse as well as to identify and assess as early as possible the needs of young children in the program. Article...

Web Resources
Paula Campbell
Permanency Planning for Children Department, NCJFCJ

Summary: Recent studies and statistics reveal that children living apart from their fathers are at an increased risk of suffering various negative outcomes. These findings have sparked increased interest in the critical role fathers play in a child’s development, particularly for children in the foster care system seeking permanency. The following websites and publications highlight the necessity of including fathers in decision-making processes as well as promising practices of father engagement. Article...

The comments of article authors do not necessarily reflect the policies of the National CASA Association or the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.


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