Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania
County of Allegheny
Children's Court | Special Projects

Care Mobile
The Children’s Court has partnered with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Ronald McDonald House Charities to sponsor the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile at the Family Court on Fridays.

The Care Mobile is a state-of-the-art pediatric Primary Care Center on wheels. Care Mobile services are available to ALL children. When the Care Mobile is at the court, it allows CYF caseworkers to obtain state mandated placement physicals for children who are entering foster care, changing placements, or being returned to their parent or guardian. In addition to services offered to foster children, services offered to all children by the Care Mobile include; healthcare to sick and healthy children, hearing and vision screenings, immunizations, and referrals. The Care Mobile also provides education regarding asthma, injury prevention, and nutrition.

Those who are interested may visit the Care Mobile, located adjacent to the Family Court on Diamond St. at Forbes Ave., any Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. For more information visit www.rmhcpgh.org/mobile.html

Children’s Roundtable
In 2006 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court launched a program aimed at reducing the length of time dependent children spend in limbo. Under a mandate from the court, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts formed the Office of Children, Families and the Courts to address problems that contribute to the extended length of time children spend in nonpermanent residences when removed from their parents.

The office, headed by Sandra Moore and under the guidance of Justice Max Baer, will work toward the following goals:

  • To have a permanent placement plan for each dependent child within one year.
  • To provide more intensive training, in collaboration with the new Judicial Education Department of the AOPC, for Judges who handle cases of dependent children.
  • To seek more active leadership by judges in working with the child welfare system to develop a team approach in dealing with dependency cases.
  • To assure frequent court hearings for each dependent child.
  • To assure that judges are given necessary time and resources to reach the best decision, with a minimum of delay, for each child.

These goals will be implemented at various stages through roundtables held from the judicial districts to the state level. The roundtables include judges, lawyers, child advocates and other stakeholders in the child welfare field.

The Allegheny County Children’s Roundtable continues its work to move abused and neglected children into permanent homes more quickly. Allegheny County joined the phase one initiative and is currently working to implement the recommendations outlined by the Supreme Court. These recommendations include, Family Finding, Family Group Decision Making and Family Development Credentialing. Please see the Administrative Office Pennsylvania Courts for more information www.aopc.org.

Electronic Filing
Electronic Filing is a web-based system for filing and automatic docketing of Children’s Court orders to the Department of Court Records. The system also allows authorized users to search and retrieve data, including the capacity to view documents that have been electronically committed to the docket on Children’s Court cases. Finally, authorized users have the ability to e-file documents on any dependency or delinquency matter. This initiative is a joint effort between the Allegheny County Children’s Court and the Allegheny County Department of Court Records. Funding for the initiative was split between the Court and the Department of Court Records. The e-filing system is available for use by all authorized individuals involved in Children’s Court cases.

At the present time, many court employees in the Children’s Court and Juvenile Probation Section utilize the system on a daily basis to help deliver a higher quality of services to the children and families who are involved in Children’s Court and Juvenile Probation cases.

Other Initiatives
The Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Community Relations now provides Allegheny County Children’s Court with a Human Services Resource Coordinator www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/. The Human Services Resource Coordinator serves Allegheny County Children’s Court on site.

Drug and alcohol assessments:  The Department of Human Services www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/ Office of Behavioral Health Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services offers two new services provided at Family Court. A Drug and Alcohol Specialist will conduct drug and alcohol assessments and provide recommendations for treatment and a case manger will manage the case load and assist clients with obtaining the treatment recommended and support them through their treatment. This service will be made available to clients who are involved with Family Court matters, primarily through the Adult Section and Custody cases. Dependency cases already have access to these services through Children Youth and Families.

Common Pleas Case Management System (CPCMS) the Court’s new state mandated electronic case management system, under the direction of the Supreme Court, was implemented for dependency cases in August 2010.

Video Conferencing
The Children’s Court partnered with Child Watch of Pittsburgh, a children’s advocacy organization devoted to identifying and illuminating problems that affect local children, to identify and procure advanced technology that would improve procedures for children and families at court; thus introducing the Video Conferencing Project.

The intent of this project is to provide videoconferencing and teleconferencing capabilities for court proceedings. Through the use of this technology, the Children’s Court will:

  • Reduce the trauma experienced by children who must testify at dependency hearings in front of those who have allegedly abused or neglected them or their siblings.
  • Increase the frequency of testimony by expert witnesses in the health and mental health professions by removing the barriers, which exist in the current system.
  • Provide additional, enhanced contact for families with children who have been placed in remote residential treatment facilities, Reduce the wait and expenses of appearances borne by the county and its CYF caseworkers, under limited circumstances, thereby freeing up time that can be used more productively on behalf of children and their families; who may not otherwise have the means to continue contact during the placement.
  • Increase the efficiency and improve the scheduling ability of the court.

The video conferencing systems consist of multiple microphones, speakers, displays, and control panels installed at each site. Each system is modified to meet the needs of its location.

The long-term target of the Video Conferencing Project is to expand the systems to 36 total sites, including: 13 Children’s Court courtrooms, 2 Family Court conference rooms, 4 Children’s Court Regional Courtrooms, 5 regional CYF offices, 5 Allegheny County Regional Community Intensive Supervision Program (CISP) Centers, 3 local hospitals, 2 mental health provider offices, and 2 jail/detention centers.

In partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Allegheny County Jail, and Shuman Center, the pilot phase of this project includes equipment installation in eight sites. These sites include; one Children’s Court courtroom and one child friendly testimony room, one Children’s Court Regional Courtroom, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Jail, Shuman Center, Allegheny County Department of Human Services Office of Children, Youth and Families Southern Regional Office and Mon Valley Regional Office.

Child Watch received support and funding for this project from various sources. Maurice Falk Fund provided funding for the planning team’s site visit to the Bexar County Children’s Court, San Antonio, Texas. This visit depicted the successful application of this technology. The Birmingham Foundation also provided a grant to supply the equipment at both South Side locations.

The use of video conferencing in dependency cases in Allegheny County is unique. The incorporation of non-county sites, such as Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh will enable the expansion of the scope of participation outside of the justice and corrections systems to include all cases where children will be impacted. The use of video conferencing in child protection and custody matters will move Allegheny County and its child welfare system to the forefront in achieving best practices by improving court experiences and permanency for children. The Video Conferencing Project represents another important innovation (which includes electronic filing) of the Children’s Court, in collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and other community partners.