Community Outreach

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Multnomah County has taken steps to increase the visibility of the Family Court Enhancement Project by making presentations about their activities and experiences at national and regional conferences. These materials provide an overview of the site’s work on the project.

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Training

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One challenge identified by Multnomah County was to improve the capacity of the court and court-related professionals to make informed recommendations and decisions regarding parenting time and custody in cases with domestic violence. Training for all family court practitioners was therefore a key activity. Programs were targeted for judges, court staff, custody evaluators, mediators, attorneys, advocates, therapists, and others, both as individual groups and in multidisciplinary presentations. Evaluations immediately following the programs were favorable, and anecdotal evidence indicates that participants are using the information from the trainings in their work. Additional data on the programs’ utility will be gathered in the next several months. Materials from several of the programs are below.

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Domestic violence screening

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The team realized that domestic violence was going undetected in many cases. A subcommittee was tasked with finding and developing screening tools for court-related professionals. Early feedback on the first tool, specifically for attorneys, has been favorable, with attorneys reporting an increased awareness and detection of domestic violence in their cases. Also, tools for other professionals, notably custody evaluators and mediators, will be forthcoming soon.

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Help for self-represented litigants

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A primary challenge identified during the planning phase of the project was that survivors lacked the information needed to make informed choices and lacked necessary support to seek...
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Data Collection

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The court gathered information from survivors and professionals to identify needs and gaps that should be addressed by the project. Surveys and roundtables were used to inform the site’s selection and development of activities and resources.

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Procedural fairness

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Early data indicated that litigants with cases involving domestic violence did not feel respected or understood and did not believe they were treated fairly in many instances. A list of recommendations to improve litigants’ court experience was developed. These included easy tips that can be easily incorporated using existing resources in every day court interactions as well as more involved policy recommendations. Of course, the ultimate arbiter of whether these efforts have been successful is the survivors themselves, so the site developed an annual survey and comment cards to provide ongoing feedback about how the court is doing and where additional improvements might be needed.

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