In his 14 years on the bench, Judge John Bowman of Florida’s 17th Circuit Court has seen how delays in the judicial process adversely affect children that juvenile dependency courts are intended to help. Judge John Bowman has made it his mission to increase docket efficiency in Florida’s courts and has achieved that through process change and technological innovation.
A change in process to increase docket efficiency means changing docketing methods from a commonly used “cattle call” docket to block time docketing, time-certain docketing, and a combination of block time and time certain-docketing, the National Child Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues website says.
Cattle call dockets are lists of cases that a court clerk assigns to morning or afternoon court sessions. This docketing method can result in long wait times for children, families, social workers, and attorneys before cases can be heard.
Block time docketing decreases wait times by assigning groups of hearings to blocks of time, dedicating each time block to a specific type of hearing, and scheduling participating parties to be present when the block starts. Participating parties need only wait until their hearing within the time block, rather than all morning or all afternoon.
Time-certain docketing increases docket efficiency by using standard hearing times based on averages calculated by the court. This method provides better scheduling accuracy and thus greater efficiency than block time docketing. Combining block time and time-certain docketing makes best use of both methods to allow greater flexibility in scheduling options.
Technological innovation involves using information technology to track multiple cases for the same families across various court divisions. Judge Bowman pushed for the judicial tracking system now in place in Florida's 17th Circuit Court.
Judge John Bowman of Florida’s 17th Circuit Court has a long-standing interest in child welfare and particularly in child adoption. Earlier in his judicial career, Judge John Bowman reduced the number of children awaiting adoption in his division from 150 to five and promoted adoptions through media appearances and participation in National Adoption Day.
National Adoption Day is an annual event held in November to raise awareness about the thousands of children in U.S. foster care awaiting permanent placement with adoptive families. The National Adoption Day Coalition sponsors the event, which takes place in communities across the country.
The coalition consists of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and the Children’s Action Network. The coalition provides resources for National Adoption Day on its website at www.nationaladoptionday.org.
• At-a-glance statistics about the number of children in foster care, the average wait time for a foster child to be adopted, and the number of children who age out of foster care annually.
• A step-by-step guide to adoption and links to additional information provided by coalition partners and other similar organizations.
• Access to volunteer, advocacy, and event-planning opportunities.
• Downloadable toolkits, including logos, brand assets, public service announcements, key messages, and fact sheets.
This year’s National Adoption Day is slated for November 21, although different communities may hold the event on other days. National Adoption Day facts and figures say that more than 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States and of these, more than 100,000 await adoption. The fact sheet says that on average, children wait nearly four years to be adopted and that 13 percent wait five or more years. The fact sheet says that more than 22,000 children reach age 18 without ever leaving foster care.
Judge John Bowman has accumulated a long record of helping streamline the judicial system to benefit children.