Minutes November 14, 2008 Doublewood Inn, Bismarck
Present: Judge Sonja Clapp, Chair Dennis Herbeck Cheryl Kulas David McGeary Tara Muhlhauser, DHS
Absent: Robin Huseby Judge Douglas Mattson Connie Portscheller Peter Welte Judge Daniel Narum Judge David Reich
Staff: Louie Hentzen Lee Ann Barnhardt
There were 4 members present. Judge Clapp stated since there isn't a quorum, she will
proceed to table the approval of the minutes from July 21, 2008 until the next Court
Improvement Meeting on March 6, 2009
Report on C.I.P. Annual Meeting Louie Hentzen reported on the annual Court Improvement Meeting, which he and Connie
Portscheller attended in Bethesda, Maryland on October 14-15, 2008. Louie attended the areas of
the conference that were related to the Data Collection, which is a new area of Court
Improvement. New case managements systems have the capability of capturing data for child
welfare cases. They have specialized child welfare data collection software in most states. A
review has taken place with some children family services federal reviews in some states. They
were laying some blame for the failed findings at the feet of the court when, in fact, each of their
items to be reviewed, state the agency is responsible for this. It clearly states in the guideline that
it is the agency's responsibility. However, they said the court should have been ensuring that the
agency followed through. They stated that questions should have been addressed from the bench.
In the future, the court is to ask the legal representative from the agency to justify the process and
follow up. There was no anecdotal example of what courts are suppose to do, however they
stated the court should be asking more questions and following through.
Judge Clapp stated that what she experiences in general is even if it isn't the court's duty
to see that the agencies are necessarily following through, the public and litigants look to the
court as the authority so often times that the court will get final reign. Courts do have a duty to
make sure that in these cases the agencies are doing what they need to before the stamp of
approval is on any sort of resolution. Both agencies and the court know what is required, so there
aren't any continuances. Pre-trial conferences should be the time to discuss these items. .
Dave McGeary added the time constraints are an obstacle. The intentions are to do what
is in the best interest of the children, but the time constraints are really cumbersome for state's
Louie Hentzen stated an issue during the review in April were areas involving the absent
parent and the lack of trying to locate them.
Dennis Herbeck asked with the 60 days conclusion of these hearings from petition to
disposition, what has been given up as a result?
Dave McGeary answered in order to meet time constraints what happens is quality
suffers in order to get the cases through.
Tara Muhlhauser stated ND has passed the IV-E audit. Fortunately in the cases reviewed,
the orders looked good. They had 5 cases that did not meet requirements. Two of the cases were
contrary findings. There was a case where the referee attached the affidavit and it didn't meet
requirements because the affidavit was suppose to be incorporate by reference. The better
language was to incorporate the affidavit by reference so it can stand with the court order and in
equal status. The final report is still to be distributed.
Dennis Herbeck asked looking at ICWA and expert witnesses, what is the expert witness
process? These are the questions that the ICWA sub-committee is looking at.
Tara Muhlhauser answered if there is an substantive report from an expert witness within
60 days, it will be very difficult to complete, because of finding the expert witness, but they need
detail as to what has gone on in a case.
The ICWA conference has brought in a variety of expert witnesses from Minnesota and
Wisconsin. Some of the expert witnesses in these states have a significant role in the cases.
Judge Clapp asked from previous reviews, if the court makes a detailed finding of good
cause for a continuance, do they excuse it?
Tara Muhlhauser answered this review team doesn't look at the court orders. They want
to make sure the order is in the file. In troublesome cases, they will then read the court order.
What they look at are that the child and family team meetings are in place and if there is a lapse
in custody, there would need to be an explanation as to the parents involvement. They are
looking at more of the child welfare practice issues.
GAL Sub-Committee - Dave McGeary, Chair. Dave reported the sub-committee
completed the Guardian Ad Litem rule which was presented to the Policy Board. Due to the
Policy Board meeting cancelling, it is still awaiting approval.
The GAL sub-committee had discussions on the program evaluation. There was some
debate earlier as to whether the sub-committee should address the program evaluation.
Louie Hentzen reported the sub-committee is to go ahead with the program evaluation
and the comments are to be distributed to the Court Services committee who will review the
Dave McGeary stated that Brad Swenson and Lanny Serrano worked on some contracts
for the GAL folks. It has been drafted so that administration will have contracts with their
Education Sub-Committee - Robin Huseby, Chair. Lee Ann gave report and stated that
they met on the first day of the Children's Justice Symposium, which was July 21-23, 2009. The
Children's Justice Symposium had approximately 300+ participants and the evaluations were
overwhelmingly supportive and positive. One of the area's that needs focus is judicial
involvement. There was fairly good attendance from referee's as well as juvenile directors. The
judge attendance needs to increase. The judge from South Carolina was one of the most attended
speakers. Lee Ann has a break down of the evaluations from the conference. There were a lot of
state employee's that conducted sessions.
The second annual GAL training was also conducted. There were approximately 30
people in attendance at the training.
Julie Buechler-Boschee attended a child abuse and neglect evidentiary seminar in Reno,
NV in September. Judge Narum attended a class in Reno that was sponsored by the Abuse and
Neglect Institute: The Role of the Judge. Judge Kleven also attended a course in the Spring.
The fall Judicial Conference will touch on subjects related to child abuse. There will be a
child development session that is related to custody and deprivation. A session on custody cases
that involve abuse and domestic violence and the abuses of the child, maltreatment and when it
gets involved in the custody cases.
The Judicial Institute focus will be mental health issues. This will cross all case types
and the judges will get a sense on how to handle everything from psychological evaluations to
various disorders. There will be specific sessions on various types of cases.
The National Conference on Juvenile Justice is in March in Orlando, Florida. Scheduled
to attend are four defense attorneys, two referee's and two judges. Judge Anderson will be
attending the 17th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Atlanta, GA. The focus is
on strengthening families.
The regional child welfare workshops are to be held every other year. These were held
last fall, but we would like the PIP in place as they should be held together. These are on hold as
The ICWA forums weren't held this year in terms of what was allocated for projects or
budgets. If they aren't going to continue, the discussion on revamping the plan and using the
money differently, which should take place at a future CIP meeting.
Dennis Herbeck asked how much money it was to conduct the forums?
Lee Ann answered the total was $5,000, which CIP contributed. CIP can do something
different to put the money into other training.
Dennis stated that the ICWA sub-committee hasn't discussed the forums but could be a
topic in the future.
ICWA Sub-Committee - Dennis Herbeck, Chair. Dennis gave an overview of what
occurred out of the ICWA sub-committee meeting. It was moved to move forward on the Native
American Training Institute to conduct expert witness training. Louie presented this at the
Administrative Council meeting. It was stated that it is a conflict of interest for the court to train
these particular folks to come into the courts and to use their experience. Funding was not
acceptable to the Administrative Council.
Judge Clapp stated Judge Christofferson sent a letter to the Chief Justice and Sally
Holewa supporting the decision of the Court Improvement Project Committee's decision.
Tara Muhlhauser stated she feels that it is in the best interest of DHS and child welfare
partners to be at the table to participate in the discussion. There is no available money in the next
biennium budget for DHS that will be identified for this particular project. However, Tara stated
they would like to be involved in the discussion because it is a need.
Dennis Herbeck stated that Connie Portscheller is part of the ICWA sub-committee
meeting and she has conducted a survey and these are the issues: Fees and who represents the
qualified expert witnesses.
Louie Hentzen stated Connie asked three questions in the survey: When ICWA requires
testimony from a qualified expert witness, what rate of pay should be received, when a qualified
expert witness is involved in court proceedings, is state or county responsible for payment and
how do other jurisdictions reimburse? It states that ND is paying more than what other states are
paying for their qualified expert witnesses.
Dennis reported that Karen Kringlie, Brad Peterson and Theresa Snyder are going to
complete a bench cheat sheet for the court on ICWA requirements.
Data Collection and Analysis Sub-Committee - Judge Clapp reported that Paul
Ronningen, chair of this sub-committee has retired.
Louie Hentzen provided a report on this sub-committee. To date CIP has entered into a
contract with Kate Harrison Consulting to conduct an evaluation of the current data collection
methods and make some recommendations identifying which data elements should be captured
and how to capture them. They have been meeting with stake holders here and have gone back
and are conducting work electronically. They are in contact with our vendors with the different
data collection areas. Areas include: Safety, Permanency, Due Process and Timeliness. Louie
feels that things are getting accomplished. One of the objects of this is to develop a quality
assurance program, which was in the strategic plan. Currently, the information that is being
retrieved is coming from the social services area, our UCIS case management system and from
our juvenile case management system. The goal is to track 100 cases and see how well they are
completed. This will be a base to grow from.
Judge Clapp asked if these performance measures will be incorporated into the new case
Louie stated his conversation with other court improvement directors stated it isn't
working out for them. They have the case management system that we are purchasing, but this
program isn't in the package. Louie has asked Curt DeClue the representative from Kate
Harrison Consulting who is knowledgeable with Tyler Technologies and would contact Tyler and
show them the performance measures that ND is looking at, could they tell him that if it is going
to be built into the system or to go elsewhere.
Judge Clapp recommended the Data Collection and Analysis sub-committee new chair
will be offered to Judge Narum.
For the Good of the Order - Future dates for the Court Improvement Project Committee
are as follows: Friday, March 6, 2009 at 9:30 a.m.- Doublewood Inn, Bismarck Monday, June 8, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. -Ramkota Inn, Bismarck Friday, September 25, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. - Doublewood Inn, Bismarck Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. - Doublewood Inn, Bismarck