The project goal was to collect data on approximately 100 Unified Family Court (UFC) cases at each of the three selected jurisdictions -- Maricopa County, Arizona, Deschutes County, Oregon, and Jackson County, Oregon -- that have developed systems to address the special needs of families with multiple court cases. The purpose of the study was to examine research questions related to: (1) dependency case processing and outcomes, (2) delinquency case processing and outcomes, (3) domestic relations/probate case processing and outcomes, and (4) criminal case processing and outcomes.
The data used in this study were generated from a review of the court records of 602 families including 406 families served by the Unified Family Court (UFC) in Maricopa County, Arizona, Deschutes County, Oregon, and Jackson County, Oregon, as well as comparison groups of 196 non-UFC multi-case families in Jackson County, Oregon and Maricopa County, Arizona. During the study's planning phase, an instrument was drafted for use in extracting this information. Each site provided copies of the forms that are routinely included in court files to help guide the instrument development. A draft form was distributed to UFC administrators and staff at each site for their review and comments. The form underwent four rounds of major revisions based on their feedback.
Data collectors were recruited from former UFC staff and current and former non-UFC court staff. All data collectors were trained by the principal investigator in the use of the data collection form. The vast majority of all data extraction required a manual review of paper files. Maricopa County did not maintain separate UFC files after cases closed. As a result, data collectors had to locate and review files from multiple courts (domestic relations, juvenile, etc.). In addition, the multi-case nature of these families meant that there were far more files than families under review. The 406 UFC families in the study had 1,399 cases requiring review and the 196 non-UFC families had 712 cases requiring review. As forms were returned, project staff reviewed them for consistency and completeness and followed through with data collectors, as needed, to improve data collection quality in general and to clarify data on specific cases.
In order to increase comparability across the sites, cases were drawn from approximately the same time period at each court. The time period selected was after the state had adopted legislation that was in compliance with the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). This was done to ensure that any differences observed among the sites in the processing of dependency cases were not attributable to different legislative mandates among the states. The time period was also selected to allow a minimum of one year to elapse between the entry into the UFC and data collection. This provided the greatest opportunity to collect outcome data for all of the UFC cases. At all three sites, a few cases in the sample universe had to be eliminated because the files were sealed, otherwise unavailable for review, or contained incomplete data.
The sample for this study consisted of 602 families -- 406 Unified Family Court (UFC) families and 196 non-UFC comparison families. More specifically, the sample in Maricopa County, Arizona was 155 families served by the UFC at the Mesa Courthouse from the inception of the UFC in March 2001 through August 2004 and 42 multi-case families who were considered for the UFC but not served through the project. In Deschutes County, Oregon, the sample consisted of 106 UFC families served between March 1999 and June 2004. In Jackson County, Oregon, the sample was 145 families that were accepted into the UFC between 2002 and 2005 and a comparison group that was comprised of 155 multi-case families with court filings during 2001.
In Maricopa County, Arizona, the universe was all families served by the Unified Family Court (UFC) and all multi-case families who were considered for the UFC but not served through the project at the Mesa Courthouse from the inception of the UFC in March 2001 through August 2004. In Deschutes County, Oregon, the universe consisted of all UFC families served between March 1999 and June 2004. In Jackson County, Oregon, the universe was all families accepted into the UFC between 2002 and 2005 and all non-UFC multi-case families with court filings during 2001.
The data were generated from a review of the court records.
administrative records data
Variables in this dataset are organized into the following categories: background variables, items from dependency/abuse and neglect filings, delinquency filings, domestic relations/probate filings, civil domestic violence/protection order filings, criminal domestic violence filings, criminal child abuse filings, other criminal filings, and variables from a summary across cases.
More specifically, the final version collects information about the family, including basic demographic information and a summary of the family's current and prior involvement in the justice system. The form also allows data collectors to provide detailed information on filings, hearings, court orders, and case outcomes related to the following:
- Up to three dependency (abuse and neglect) cases;
- Up to six delinquency cases;
- One domestic relations or probate case (including paternity, parenting time, child support dissolution of marriage, and guardianship);
- Up to five filings for restraining or civil protection orders;
- Up to five criminal filings related to domestic violence;
- One criminal child abuse filing; and
- Up to nine other criminal filings.
The sample universe in Maricopa County, Arizona, was all 177 families served by the Unified Family Court (UFC) at the Mesa Courthouse from the inception of the UFC in March 2001 through August 2004. Ultimately, a total of 155 UFC families (87.6 percent of the total served) were reviewed. In Deschutes County, Oregon, the sample universe consisted of 140 UFC families served between March 1999 and June 2004. A total of 106 families (75.7 percent of the total served) were ultimately reviewed. In Jackson County, Oregon, the sample universe was 201 families accepted into the UFC between 2002 and 2005. A total of 145 families (72.1 percent of the total served) were included in the analysis. Information is not available for the Maricopa County, Arizona and Jackson County, Oregon non-UFC comparison families.