Present Paul Ronningen, Co-Chair Vince Ament Larry Bernhardt Renee Mayer Pat Podoll James Schnabel Rita Weisz
Absent Judge Lee Christofferson Judge Sonja Clapp, Co-Chair Connie Cleveland Jim Gion Robin Huseby Tracy Many Wounds Sandra McDonald Bill Neumann Ina Olson Theresa Snyder Brad Swenson
Staff Lee Ann Barnhardt Louie Hentzen Tara Muhlhauser
Non-Members Attendance Lanny Serrano Darlene Hill John Charging
Paul Ronningen opened the meeting by introducing Judge James W. Payne, Director of
Indiana Department of Child Services. (Please see attached biography)
Introductions of committee members.
The minutes of the April 5, 2006 meeting were approved.
Lee Ann discussed grants at the national level. She thanked everyone for working so hard
on the strategic plans. The first grant is a basic court improvement grant which has been
operating for several years and due at the end of June. Final approval has not yet been received.
The grant application includes the bulk of the CIP strategic plan. The dollar amount is
$135,590.00. At the next meeting everyone will receive the full strategic plan to review and use
in their subcommittee work.
The other two grant opportunities this year were new grants. One is the education and training
grant and the other is for data collection and analysis. The education and training grant is
$127,910.00, including the state match. The subcommittee for that is Bill Neumann, Jim Gion
and Robin Huseby. They have come up with a five-year plan utilizing the money for regional
training, state wide meetings, and mentorship programs. Some of that will begin this November
with the judicial conference focusing on child welfare issues.
Lee Ann Barnhardt wrote the data collection analysis grant. However, once the strategic
plan and timelines were laid out, it was an impossible goal to meet with the current UCIS
information system being under review. A year will be spent looking at what exactly is needed
and an application will be prepared for 2007. This grant will cover data collection, performance
measures, and ICWA compliance issues. Once a plan for the information system is established
there will be more discussion and meetings on what is needed.
Question (Pat Podoll) Is the money we are receiving new money or a combined amount? Lee Ann stated that anything that is related to training in the old grant was moved to the
education grant. The new $127,000 is for training for judges and attorneys and cross training
with social workers.
ICWA committee comments. Tara Muhlhauser spoke to Theresa Snyder and reported
that the committee is thinking about having ICWA forums. Theresa knows the pertinent details.
Louie Hentzen stated that he talked with Judge Christofferson and it is their intention to have the
forums again late in the fall before the ICWA conference in January.
Pat Podoll inquired if there are new ICWA manuals being reprinted. Tara Muhlhauser
said they are about 1/3 done, but that they are planning on having them displayed on the
Department of Human Service website.
Lee Ann Barnhardt said a recommendation in the education grant is to develop a website
for court improvement activities, which would include all manuals, best practices, and other
information such as the forums.
Paul Ronningen said in meeting with the Tribal Social Service Directors, there are some
issues that continue to arise and some of the conversations around the forums are jurisdiction
issues that occur between tribal agencies, the counties, the state's attorneys and law enforcement
with questions of jurisdiction and who is going to take over those kinds of things. There is
always discussion about what kinds of steps do we need to think about as a state to adopt a
comprehensive ICWA law for North Dakota and what kind of time frame should it take. What
time in the session should we plan for? When should we introduce it? Who is going to take the
lead on it? Those are issues that keep coming up that pertain to ICWA and this is something we
all question from time to time. Compliance and checklists that can be put in place may be
helpful to make sure that it is available and to comply with ICWA.
The ICWA subcommittee has talked about identifying a number of qualified expert
witnesses. The subcommittee has come to the determination that standards and protocols need
to be set for qualified expert witnesses. Darlene Hill states the need to understand what the law is
expecting and how it is going to be interpreted on how the tribes are using expert witnesses.
Rita Weisz states other issues are what is to be asked of the experts and the state's attorney not
being sensitive in these types of cases. Tara Muhlhauser stated there are tribal elders that came
into the state court system and have some anxiety with being treated the same as any other expert
witness and doing a good assessment. Renee Mayer says that it is a challenge for tribal elders;
but that they can do good assessments and because of the culture they have respect.
Paul Ronningen asked what the next steps are to be expected. Tara Muhlhauser said we
take it to the Chief's Task Force and talk about what we need and plan from there. Darlene Hill
stated that we need to have an expert discuss exactly what ICWA really means and to interpret it.
Paul states someone from tribal leadership be invited to help through this conversation. It would
be good to get an expert in. Renee Mayer stated that there is an attorney, the chairperson of
Health and Human Services, who could talk, but that it may be very complicated as there isn't
just one tribe in North Dakota and there may be culture issues and strong feelings about certain
Lee Ann discussed the education subcommittee. During the last meeting the strategic
plan was discussed and will be sent out via e-mail to all members after it is approved. As soon as
it's approved there will be another meeting within the next few months to discuss regional
training. The plan is to have the court staff, referees, judges, social workers, law enforcement,
juvenile staff participate in the meeting. Discussion will start with the "nuts and bolts" approach
at the first meeting so that everyone knows everyone's roles, responsibilities and who is suppose
to be doing what. Then in subsequent years they would actually have a two tracks and get into
more advanced issues. In 2008 there will be a state wide forum on child welfare. There will be
top notch speakers to discuss ideas and have some good discussions on child welfare.
Vince Ament discussed the GAL subcommittee. On May 4, 6 of 11 members met in
Fargo and talked about training and issues regarding recruiting GAL's. They had a discussion
about a project by Dana Doan, a student at Minot State University who did a master's thesis on
GAL's . It was determined that the best interest of children are being met in Fargo, Grand Forks
and Bismarck; the areas where her study was conducted. The report did include a number of
recommendations for the GAL's. Some of the recommendations included more training on
AFSA and ICWA, that shadowing and mentoring become part of the training, and that GAL's are
able to continue to stay on the entire case instead of ending at disposition. She also suggested that
a GAL mission statement be developed. The strategic plan was worked on and a discussion was
held on ensuring funding for the GAL project. A court rule was discussed to establish roles and
responsibilities for GAL. There has been an extension of the contract between the Supreme
Court and the University of North Dakota for another year for the GAL program.
Louie and Lee Ann have been working with Brad Swenson and did include extra training
dollars specifically for GAL training in the CIP grant. They will also be attending the training
this fall to see if there are things that need to be done.
Lanny Serrano stated that there are 14 new perspective candidates for GAL training.
Louie Hentzen stated the Administrative Counsel has endorsed the concept that the Lay-GAL
who is in the case at the initial deprivation finding stays in the case through determination of
parental rights involvement. Brad Swenson is working on statistics, looking historically at the
difference between ending at deprivation finding and being reappointed for termination to
determine an amount to request in the budget. The monies are general fund monies and not
attached to this court improvement program. Lanny stated the last time Susan Sisk presented,
the budget was on schedule. Another item with the GAL project is that the website is being
developed and should be online in the near future so that people can go on and get applications.
James Schnabel brought up a concern regarding the GAL. He stated he has a great GAL
who calls and participates, and he has a GAL that he never hears from or has interest. Some of
these differences are easy to identify, but not always easy to fix. Foster parents get
compassionate and get involved in children's lives and when things go wrong, they get really
upset and end up losing focus. Sometimes the foster parents get wrapped up in what's happening
and end up losing their objectivity and their sense of direction. When these things happen and
you see a child go through something that should have never happened, it is just very upsetting.
The state's attorney asks why doesn't the foster parent say anything in the courtroom and the
reaction is that the foster parent isn't a party to this action. It is a very frustrating situation.
Larry Bernhardt asked if any money is going to be dedicated for the GAL training. Lee
Ann stated that training will be regional for GAL and foster parents etc. as part of a cross-training effort. There is some money designated for ongoing GAL training.
Louie Hentzen stated that the Collaboration and Systems Integration subcommittee met in
April to follow through on Lee Ann's request for the strategic plans by each of the
subcommittee's. This has been submitted so that it is incorporated in the plan. Since then, the
Chair has resigned his position. At the last Administrative Council meeting, Chief Justice
VandeWalle directed Justice Sandstrom to draft an Administrative Policy or Administrative Rule
formalizing the Court Improvement Committee. Up until currently, the Court Improvement
Committee has not had formalization in the process. The Administrative Council felt that it
should be a committee of the Administrative Council because of all the new grant money. Court
Improvement states that the highest judge in the state of the highest court of appeals signs that
grant application, so that the court is responsible. That money goes into the court budget. They
are going to make it into a formalized committee of the Administrative Council. Lee Ann and
Louie have furnished Justice Sandstrom with the history of the committee and the language from
the federal agency about the grant process and what is required. We anticipate that at the next
meeting of Administrative Council which is September 13, 2006, there will be something
presented to the counsel and approved. Louie guesses it would be an administrative policy
because all the committee's that are part of the Administrative Council seem to be created by a
administrative policy. We may have a new membership requirement. All committees of the court
only have three year terms for the memberships and it rotates. Louie will report back and get you
information as soon as it is formalized by the Administrative Counsel.
Lee Ann stated that it has been the policy and tradition of Supreme Court committees that
the sub-committees can be expanded beyond the membership of the formal committee. The sub-committees can maintain or recruit however they want with their own membership to get as
much collaboration and people as involved as possible. Louie also stated that all court
committees are heavily weighted by judicial officers. We do not in this particular committee. We
have two, Judge Clapp and Judge Christofferson under the current makeup.