Juvenile | Administrative Information
Honorable Kim Berkeley Clark
Welcome to Juvenile Court!
The Juvenile Section of Family Division handles all matters pertaining to juveniles
in Allegheny County. Typically, children enter the Juvenile Court System in two
ways: Delinquency (where children between the ages of 10 and 17 years of age have
been charged with committing criminal acts) and Child Protection or Dependency (where,
for the most part, parents have abused or neglected their children). Juvenile Court
also handles Termination of Parental Rights cases, Mental Health commitments for
juveniles, Protection from Abuse cases when the defendant is a juvenile and Act
53 Petitions for Involuntary Commitment for Drug and Alcohol Treatment.
Our Juvenile Court proudly operates as a “one family, one judge court”.
By having one judge/hearing officer team handling all of the issues involved with
a family, we believe that we are better serving the needs and welfare of our children
and families and that we are reaching our goal of permanency for children sooner.
On the delinquency side, we believe that our “one family, one judge”
model has assisted in reducing recidivism and has helped in transitioning juveniles
Allegheny County currently has five judges that handle full juvenile court caseloads.
We also have five hearing officers that that assist in handling both delinquency
and dependency matters. Because we now have five judges hearing juvenile cases,
there is one judge assigned to hear cases from each CYF regional office. Additionally,
each judge has the same attorneys (including conflict counsel) and the same hearing
officer to hear reviews. This Judge/hearing officer/attorney team approach really
assists us in the one family one judge concept. In 2003, over 1500 dependency petitions
were filed, 198 TPRs were filed and 226 adoptions were finalized.
The hearing officers continue to assist us in managing our staggering caseloads
and to permit judges to spend more time on complex cases. This has resulted in an
increase in permanency reviews and a reduction of the overall length of time that
children remain in out-of-home placements, thus reducing the costs of care for children
in placement. In 2003, the hearing officers conducted approximately 5700 case reviews
and closed about 750 cases. Of these case closures, 363 resulted in reunification,
82 resulted in PLC, 159 resulted in adoptions and 146 involved children 18 or older
who were no longer eligible for or unwilling to continue services.
In 2003, Juvenile Probation issued its first report card to the public during juvenile
justice week. This report card, designed to report outcomes in juvenile delinquency
cases, was quite impressive. The figures for 2003 were as follows:
- At case closing, 77% of offenders paid restitution in full.
- A total of $155,911 in restitution was paid.
- At case closing, 98% completed all of their community service
- 69,653.5 community service hours were completed.
- Only 11% of offenders recidivated while under court supervision.
- Only 5% of offenders appeared in court for a probation violation.
- At case closing, 86% of offenders were attending educational/vocational
As a result of the publication of our report card, Allegheny County was invited
to be part of a National Project to develop performances measures in Juvenile Court.
This project was initiated at the request of Congress and was sponsored by the American
Prosecutors Research Institute and the National District Attorneys Association.
Only four jurisdictions in the U.S. were invited to be a part of this project—Allegheny
County, Deschutes Co., Oregon, Cook Co., Illinois and South Carolina. We convened
in October in Washington D.C. and had our second meeting in Columbia South Carolina
in February. We had our final meeting in Ft. Lauderdale in August and our report
was issued at the end of 2004. Congress has an interest in requiring all jurisdictions
to measure outcomes in delinquency cases and it is exciting that our county is on
the forefront of this effort and is at the table deciding how this should be done.
Due to the concern for the cost of conflict/appointed counsel in delinquency cases,
we have developed a “contract” system with eight attorneys. This system
is working well and we expect to save the county tens of thousands of dollars or
I am also excited to report that our e-filing system, currently being developed,
should be up and running in May 2005! The electronic filing system is a joint project
between Juvenile Court and the Department of Court Records. This system will enable
us to be more efficient, to ensure that all orders are properly filed, will solve
the issue of missing files and will ensure that all parties quickly receive copies
of all orders through e-mail. Additionally, it will decrease the workload of our
court clerks, in that they will not have to make copies and certain information
will automatically be entered on the order at the onset.
In 2003, Allegheny County Juvenile Court developed a Dependency Court Improvement
Project, headed by the Honorable Christine Ward. The Court Improvement Project is
developing a plan for immediate and long- range improvements in dependency court.
The project is focusing on six areas: Automated Systems, Court Administration, Improved
Access to Services, Coordinated Case Management, Finance/Funding, and Cultural Competency.
We expect to have recommendations by April 2005.
Looking forward, we expect more exciting and innovative things in Juvenile Court.
We will continue to work within the spirit of Balanced and Restorative Justice and
to ensure that our children are safe and obtain permanency as quickly as possible.