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Child Dependency Benchbook




Matters relating to abuse and neglect of children are among the most important a judge ever handles. The well-being of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens is at stake; emotions run high and a number of public and private agencies can be involved. Often, judges are expected to approach these cases without any special training or preparation.

The judge, who is new to the dependency bench, can research and learn the specifics of the state’s laws regarding abuse and neglect. It is more difficult, however, to become knowledgeable and comfortable with decision-making about children and working with social service agencies. This benchbook attempts to provide the new judge with a framework accommodating not only the general law of dependency, but also the development of children, and the roles of mental health and social service agencies in dependency matters.

The benchbook will be distributed throughout the country to judges who are new to the dependency bench. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Center for the Future of Children at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the financial sponsor of this effort, hope this benchbook will be useful in orienting new judges as they address the substantial judicial responsibilities attendant to child abuse and neglect.

With much gratitude to the distinguished contributions of the practitioners, policy makers, teachers, and researchers, who made this work possible, we invite your comments and suggestions for future editions.

Louis W. McHardy

Executive Director, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Dean, National College of Juvenile and Family Law

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