Saturday, February 16, 2013

Justice Baer rolls out access to child abuse data

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has launched a new link on the Unified Judicial System's website designed to give the public a better picture of the neglected and abused children who are under court supervision in Pennsylvania, reported the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

Supreme Court Justice Max Baer said the data "will help us identify counties and courts which are excelling in certain areas, so those practices can be applied elsewhere to further improve care for abused and neglected children."

Justice Baer's approach to dealing with abuse and neglect is admirable and well conceived.  Instead of chastising the counties that are underperforming he is focusing on replicating county initiatives that have been  successful.

The page includes data such as the ages, sex, race, length of and result of court supervision and placement information for those at-risk children. For privacy and safety reasons, it does not list names or other specific information about the youngsters, according to the Patriot-News.

It also will enhance statewide efforts to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care before they are either returned home or receive alternative placements, said Baer, a former family court judge in Allegheny County.

Over six years, court-led efforts have resulted in a 34 percent reduction in the number of children in foster care and other temporary living arrangements, according to the state Welfare Department. The number of children in placement dropped from more than 21,000 in 2006 to around 14,000 last year.

The placement reduction saved taxpayers an estimated $200 million in the past two years, Baer said.

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