The Department of Family & Juvenile Services is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families involved in Kentucky’s juvenile justice and child welfare systems. FJS provides direct services to children and family and offers education, programming and technical support to the judges and court personnel who handle juvenile and family law cases.
FJS oversees two programs required by statute to provide services statewide, the Court Designated Worker Program and the Citizen Foster Care Review Board. The CDW Program processes complaints filed against children under age 18 before any action is taken in formal court, which gives court designated workers the opportunity to help thousands of juveniles every year. CFCRB volunteers protect children by reviewing the case of each child in the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and providing recommendations to judges who make decisions about placing children in safe, permanent homes.
FJS also supports programs that address persistent problems in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. These efforts focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities through the RED Program, supporting victims of domestic violence through the STOP Violence Against Women Program and addressing substance use disorder through the RESTORE Initiative. FJS also administers Title IV-E reimbursement for foster care costs and carries out Kentucky’s Court Improvement Program, which promotes best court practices, child welfare system collaboration, and improved outcomes for children who experience dependency, neglect and abuse.
Court Improvement Program
The Kentucky Court Improvement Program supports family law initiatives to improve outcomes for families and children throughout the state. The Department of Family & Juvenile Services administers the CIP through federal grants from the Children's Bureau, which requires state courts to complete a detailed self-assessment and develop and implement recommendations to enhance the court's role in achieving stable, permanent homes for children in foster care.
The CIP carries out this mission by providing educational opportunities to judges, court personnel and court partners, and enhancing collaboration between the courts and child welfare agencies, including the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The CIP also supports the Citizen Foster Care Review Board; prepares attorneys by offering legal training for dependency, neglect and abuse cases; and maintains the Children’s Automated Tracking System, a shared database of case information for the Administrative Office of the Courts, judges, the CFCRB and the CHFS.
As part of the CIP, Family Court judges have access to membership in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the AOC is a member of the Coalition of Juvenile Justice.
STOP Violence Against Women Program
The Department of Family & Juvenile Services employs a domestic violence program coordinator with federal funding from the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program.
The DVPC provides training and technical assistance to judges and court staff to support and enhance the court’s response to victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault. The DVPC also advocates for best practices in domestic violence cases and helps to ensure compliance with 24-hour access and domestic violence/interpersonal protective order protocols.
In 2019, the Kentucky Court of Justice launched RESTORE to give judges, circuit clerks and court staff the training and resources they need to effectively handle opioid-related cases. RESTORE stands for Responsive Education to Support Treatment in Opioid Recovery Efforts.
RESTORE’s goal is to supply courts with evidence-based practices to support the treatment of opioid use disorders and lifelong recovery for court-involved individuals and their families. Court officials are learning about the science and stigma of addiction, the relationship between trauma and these disorders, family preservation in the context of a substance use disorder and the role of the courts in supporting recovery.
The RESTORE Leadership Team is comprised of Circuit, Family and District Court judges and a circuit court clerk. The Administrative Office of the Courts receives funding for RESTORE as a subrecipient of a two-year federal grant awarded to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Title IV-E Foster Care
The Federal Foster Care Program, authorized by Title IV-E, helps to provide safe and stable out-of-home care for children until the children are safely returned home or placed permanently with adoptive families or in other planned arrangements for permanency. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services administers Title IV-E funding for Kentucky.
As part of that responsibility, the CHFS collaborates with the Department of Family & Juvenile Services to meet the federal mandate to review the cases of all children in foster care at least once every six months through the Citizen Foster Care Review Board program. Title IV-E funding also supports juvenile justice initiatives, the Children’s Automated Tracking System, notification to parties involved in interested party reviews, and training and technical assistance for the CFCRB.
Truancy Diversion Program
The Truancy Diversion Program uses a multidisciplinary team to assist students at risk of being charged with truancy because of too many unexcused absences. The team consists of judges, court designated workers and school personnel who help students improve attendance and successfully engage in their educational experience. The TDP team provides case management supports and services to help students overcome barriers to developing healthy habits. The student and his or her parents attend 10 weekly sessions with the TDP Team to comply with recommendations and requirements set forth by the team.
Teen Court gives young offenders the opportunity to participate in a less formal court process carried out by their peers. The program is based on the premise that most juveniles want to do the right thing and is designed to hold them accountable for their actions, reduce repeat offenses, change attitudes toward law enforcement and society, and increase understanding of how an individual’s behavior affects others. As part of the diversion program, juveniles agree to take part in Teen Court and have their sentence set by their classmates.