Shorter Family Court proceedings lead to faster permanent placement, research finds


Children involved in shorter Family Court proceedings are more likely to find a permanent placement, and to be placed into one faster, a new study has found.

The research, published by the University of East Anglia (UEA), investigated the outcomes of children in the two years after their final court hearing.

To test this, the average time from court application to final hearing was reduced from 49 weeks to 27 weeks from April 2012 to March 2013

The study looked at whether children in the reduced year ended up in more or less stable placements than those whose proceedings took, on average, almost twice as long in the years previous, and whether there was increased or reduced delay between final hearing and permanent placement.

Overall, researchers found that children involved in shorter care proceedings experienced a more positive outcome than those subject to longer exposure to the Court.

They found that a slightly higher proportion of children in the abridged year were already in their planned permanent placement when proceedings ended – 65 per cent compared to 60 per cent the year before.

And for those who did need to move to a permanent placement afterwards, the focus on shorter care proceedings saw the wait from final hearing to placement fall from 30 weeks to 14 – a reduction of more than 50 per cent.

Prof Jonathan Dickens, lead author, said: “Care proceedings are one of the most intrusive state interventions into the lives of children and families and this was a unique opportunity to track and compare the outcomes for children and assess the impact of such a major system change.

“There is widespread interest in ensuring that proceedings are brought in appropriate cases, conducted in a fair, thorough and timely manner, and that the outcomes are as beneficial as possible for the children. It is not easy to satisfy all these requirements but our findings show that is it possible to reconcile these demands. Shorter care proceedings do not necessarily mean that delay is squeezed to either side of the proceedings.”

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