Examination of Judicial Practice in Placement Review Hearings
In Texas, placement review hearings are required to be held every six months for youth in permanent managing conservatorship, or long-term foster care. These hearings are a key opportunity for judges to spur progress toward permanency by cultivating collaboration and accountability between parties supporting the youth. Organizations such as the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Texas Appleseed have detailed best practices for these hearings. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which these best practices are implemented, and explore the relationship between quality hearing practice and permanency outcomes.
Results from structured observations of hearings indicated that best practices such as reviewing adoption efforts, engaging children in discussion, and having discussion focused on finding a permanent home did not occur in a substantial number of hearings. In addition, preliminary exploration of the relationship between hearing practice and outcomes suggested that courts with better permanency outcomes from 2008 data tended to have higher quality hearing practice in the present study.
The study provides further indication of the need for judicial leadership in instituting high quality hearing practice to improve outcomes for youth. It also establishes an approach and foundation for future research to identify the specific aspects of hearing practice that have the strongest effects on permanency outcomes.