Court Improvement Program Overview

Nevada's Court Improvement Program Mission Statement

Nevada’s Court Improvement Program emphasizes and supports children’s right to protection from abuse and neglect.  It is committed to develop and implement data-driven, evidence-based, and outcome-focused best practices that advance meaningful and ongoing collaboration among court, child welfare agency, and other stakeholders to achieve safety, permanency, and well-being for children and families in the child welfare system in a fair and timely manner.

Origins of the Court Improvement Program:

To accomplish these goals, and pursuant to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA), the United States Congress appropriated funds to the states as part of a federal initiative to support reform in the handling of child abuse and neglect cases. The State Court Improvement Program (CIP) was enacted because courts had been under intensive pressure to implement a myriad of federal and state laws which imposed new duties on the courts, greatly increasing the complexity of cases. For example, in each case, courts must address a far wider range of issues than in earlier years. There are increasing numbers of hearings per case. More individuals are involved in the case process, and this has placed greater demands not only on judges, but on court staff, attorneys, and agencies in their dealing with the courts.

The Federal CIP grants have been channeled to the highest state courts, e.g. those with the responsibility for administering state court systems. It is expected that the supreme courts and their administrative offices will facilitate collaboration among the key stakeholders to identify and address barriers to achieve safety, permanency, and child and family well-being within the judicial, legal, and child welfare systems in a fair and timely manner.

CIP has existed in Nevada since 1995. It is overseen by the multi-disciplinary CIP Select Committee (Committee), chaired by Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, retired. This group is comprised of family court judges, a tribal representative, the three child welfare agency administrators and representatives, a deputy state attorney general, district attorneys, a public defender, legislators, the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, several attorneys who actively represent neglected and abused children, and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) programs. As an ad hoc committee of the Judicial Council of the State of Nevada, the Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the Supreme Court.

What is the Court Improvement Program:

CIP enables the courts and agencies involved in the child welfare system to develop systemic, statewide changes to significantly improve the handling of child welfare cases while ensuring compliance with state and federal laws regarding child dependency and child welfare matters. The Committee oversees the application for and distribution of federal grant funds, sets minimum standards for program and funding criteria, and establishes policies and procedures to plan and develop these statewide changes designed to improve the quality of the court process for children and families involved in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings.

The Supreme Court through its Court Improvement Program applies for and receives grant funds from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

The Committee has appointed a Grants Awards Subcommittee which strictly adheres to the federal grant requirements, and the approved Nevada CIP Strategic Plan, when reviewing sub-grant proposals for recommendation to the full committee. Sub-grants are provided to fund proposals that address Nevada's federally approved strategic goals. The CIP Strategic Plan identifies goals that mandate that grant-funded activities and projects be evidence-based, policy driven, and data informed with a continual quality improvement component.

Funding from the three CIP grants target specific outcomes as outlined in the current CIP Strategic Plan.

Nevada Court Improvement Efforts Focus On:

  • Improving court handling of foster care cases.
  • Emphasizing and supporting children's rights to protection from abuse and neglect.
  • Avoiding unnecessary separation of children from their families.
  • Furthering timely permanency for children who have come into the court's jurisdiction due to abuse or neglect.
  • Seeking to protect the due process rights of all parties; the families' as well the children's.
  • Cultivating judicial leadership to ensure that courts provide efficient and timely justice to children and families.

Nevada Uses Its Court Improvement Program Funds To: 

  • Pilot such best practices as statewide juvenile dependency mediation, thereby improving the dependency court processes.
  • Educate the judiciary, legal and child welfare communities, and other stakeholders by hosting annual conferences and on-line training.
  • Advance meaningful and ongoing collaboration within and among the courts and agencies serving neglected and abused children.
  • Develop data exchanges with dashboard capabilities to ensure appropriate and timely hearing notification, and improve timely permanent and safe placement of children.
  • Encourage local input and comprehensive systemic reform through the Community Improvement Councils (CICs).
  • Validate and improve practice through research.
  • Standardize dependency court orders across the state via the Court Order Template Project to ensure orders contain required federal language.

Impact of Court Improvement Funds in Nevada:

  • 100% of state judicial districts have active Community Improvement Councils (CICs) created at the request and with the support of CIP to systemically improve court processing of abuse and neglect cases by implementing evidence-based, best practices, and continually assessing and improving their execution.
  • 100% of CICs participate in the annual CIC Summits and develop annual data-driven action plans to improve the processing of child neglect and abuse cases.
  • The time it takes to place children in safe, permanent homes decreased 19% or 160 days, the time to adoption decreased 23% or 8 months, and the time to termination of parental rights decreased 22% or 166 days since 2011.
  • 90% of 1st permanency hearings are now held within 12 months compared to 67% in 2012.
  • 34% of adoptions are taking place in less than 24 months as compared to only 14.6% in 2010. The national median is 26.8%.
  • A statewide dependency mediation program  began in 2016, of cases mediated:
    • 82% reach agreement statewide;
    • 88% of successfully mediated cases result in reunification compared to 50% of non-mediated cases;
    • 72% of fathers who participated in mediation became engaged in their cases compared to 50% of non-mediated cases. 

CIP attorneys and stakeholder dependency training launched in 2017.  

CASA programs in 7 judicial districts started with CIP assistance.

CIP collaboration advanced the Governor's Coalition to Prevent Commercial Exploitation of Children

Data sharing among the courts, child welfare agencies, school districts, and juvenile justice Initiated to ensure that children are not out of a permanent, loving home one minute longer than necessary to make them safe.

Thank you for visiting our webpage.

If you have comments or questions with regard to CIP or the information on this site, please contact Kathie Malzahn-Bass directly at kmalzahn-bass@nvcourts.nv.gov