Court Resources

For Attorneys: In June 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court published a new resource “Child Welfare Attorneys: A Toolkit for Quality Legal Representation” to assist with the recruitment and onboarding of new court-appointed child welfare attorneys. This toolkit contains practical suggestions to deliver high quality legal representation to families involved in an abuse, neglect, or dependency case. You can access the toolkit here. If you would like to receive a hard copy(s) of this toolkit, please email or call (614) 387-9385.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court (HCJC) offers the following programs to assist children and families who are involved with the Court, including mental and behavioral health support for youth charged and/or adjudicated on a criminal offense.

Behavioral Health Services Department: The Behavioral Health Services Department is the clinical arm of the Court. Crisis response clinicians provide crisis and behavioral support to young people at the Youth Center. Behavioral health specialists assist contract psychologists in psychological testing for Court-ordered evaluations and coordinate the Court’s Competency Attainment Program. Youth and their families may be referred to the department for services through Court staff, including judges, magistrates and probation officers.

  • Court-ordered Assessments and Evaluations: Judges, magistrates and probation officers may refer a youth to the Behavioral Health Services Department for a variety of assessments, used to provide additional information to the Court for treatment recommendations once a decision has been made about a case. Evaluations are completed by licensed psychologists. Diagnostic Assessment of Functioning (DAF) evaluations include: amenability (commonly known as a “bindover”), psychological, risk assessment, school threat and competency. 
  • Individualized Disposition Docket (IDD), Pretrial Disposition Docket (PDD) and Diversion Conference: These are special dockets designed to provide interventions and supports for youth with a mental health diagnosis. HCJC partners with Lighthouse Youth and Family Services to provide support to change delinquent behavior and address mental health issues. Youth and their families receive regular in-home individual and family therapy, case management services, and educational advocacy and coordination.

School Threat Assessment Program: HCJC works with schools to identify and implement best practices with regard to school threat cases. Chief Clinical Consultant, Dr. Nicole Leisgang, developed a specialized psychological evaluation to assess the validity and scope of school violence threats made at school or online. When a child is found guilty of a charge that involves a threat of school violence, the assessment is used as a tool to identify services and treatment options to aid in the final outcome. Dr. Leisgang and HCJC staff work with staff from Princeton City Schools, Cincinnati Public Schools and the Northwest Local School District to develop informed protocol to investigate and assess school violence threats and determine appropriate pathways for diversion, services, and Court-involvement for youth who make these threats.

Team Child: The most powerful predictor of juvenile crime is a child out of school. The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati partners with HCJC to promote success in school for Court-involved youth referred by probation or hearing officers and magistrates. Legal Aid’s Children and Education Practice Group works long-term with families to achieve educational stability. Learn more here.

Custody and Companionship Clinic: The Custody and Companionship Clinic offers free on-the-spot legal advice from volunteer attorneys. Individuals who are filing in custody or visitation (companionship) matters who cannot afford their own attorney can visit the Clinic during open hours, Mondays through Wednesdays from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. or call 513-946-9440. The Clinic is a partnership between the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Cincinnati Bar Foundation and HCJC.

  • Custody Investigations: A judge or magistrate may order an investigation to be done by one of the Court’s custody investigators for cases in which parties do not have attorneys. This includes home visits, background investigations, and record reviews to provide information for deciding the custody rights of a parent or guardian.
  • Mediation: For custody and visitation filings, also referred to as companionship, HCJC facilitates the opportunity to reach agreements with the opposing party through mediation.  A trained mediator who is not a magistrate or judge, meets with both sides and helps come to an agreement before the matter reaches a hearing or trial.

Best Point Education & Behavioral Health: The Randal S. Bloch Family Visitation Center (FVC) is collaboration between HCJC and Best Point Education & Behavioral Health, formerly The Children’s Home of Cincinnati. The FVC provides a safe and nurturing place for parents to have supervised visits with their child. These visits are ordered by a judge or magistrate. Children’s Home staff can also connect families to community mental or behavioral health resources. Learn more here.