Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania
County of Allegheny
Juvenile | Administrative Information

Kim Berkeley Clark, Administrative Judge
Honorable Kim Berkeley Clark
Administrative Judge
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 into adulthood.

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 hours.
  • 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 programs.

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 more.

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.

Resources
 






Juvenile Court
550 5th Avenue
2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412.350.0200
412.350.0197 fax
directions by Google maps
 
Hours of Operation
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.