COLUMBIA — When it comes to making sure children come first, the 13th Circuit Court has been recognized for the sixth time as being among the best.
The Supreme Court of Missouri awarded the Circuit Court, which includes Boone and Callaway counties, the "Permanency Award" on Monday. It's given to courts that hold timely hearings in child abuse and neglect cases, in which children who have been removed from their home are reunited with their families or placed in a new, permanent home as quickly as possible.
To qualify for the honor, courts must adhere to particular hearing time frames, based on guidelines from the Commission on Children's Justice. In the seven years since the high court began bestowing the award, there has been a 6 percent increase in hearings being held on time, according to a Supreme Court of Missouri news release.
"Timely hearings are always important to the effective administration of justice,” Missouri Supreme Court Judge Patricia Breckenridge said in the release. “When children are removed from their homes, that importance becomes even greater to determine whether it is safe to return those children to their biological parents or place them in other permanent homes. Those circuits which exert the extra effort necessary to ensure timely hearings in these cases should be recognized for their achievements."
Among the 45 circuit courts in Missouri, only 16 were given the award.
"We're incredibly pleased by it, needless to say," said Boone County Associate Circuit Judge Leslie Schneider, who serves as the administrative judge for the family court in the 13th Circuit. "It takes a huge amount of effort in regards to all the staff and all the attorneys."
In 2013, the 13th Circuit held 1,582 child abuse or neglect hearings.
"We try to get permanency in the court for the children," Schneider said. "It's really a focus of what we do."