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CHICAGO, IL, DECEMBER, 1998 -- The Honorable Judge Nancy Salyers, presiding judge of the nation’s oldest juvenile court, located in Cook County, has been named recipient of the 1998 Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare by the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA).
"Judge Salyers has been an invaluable ally in Illinois’ efforts to move children out of the child welfare system and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible," said Governor Jim Edgar. "Her tireless efforts have helped nearlydouble adoptions in the last fiscal year and place thousands more Illinois childreninto nurturing environments."

Salyers will receive the NAPCWA award on December 6 at the organization’s annual winter meeting in San Diego. The award is presented to a child welfare professional exhibiting leadership in the field of public child welfare and support of public child welfare agency efforts to help families and children.

"Judge Salyers’ contributions have resulted in expedited adoptions, a more streamlined court process and legislation improving permanency for children," said Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Jess McDonald.

"Most importantly, she has fostered ongoing communication with the agencies and individuals who work on behalf of children, so that problems may be ironed out toward our collective goal – the safety and well-being of children."

In selecting Salyers, the Washington, D.C. -based organization, representing city, county, and state agencies providing child abuse prevention, child protection, foster care, adoption and independent living services to children and families, noted Judge Salyers’ longtime emphasis on achieving permanency for wards of the court.

"Our child welfare system represents an important investment in our future," said NAPCWA President Ivory Johnson. "Judge Nancy Salyers has made a real difference in lives, and her leadership, vision, and commitment have elevated the standards for child welfare. Our nation owes her a debt of gratitude."

Since the appointment of Judge Salyers in February 1995, the once beleaguered Cook County Juvenile Court, which had a docket of more than 40,000 cases, has experienced a dramatic reversal of its prior uncontrolled growth to become one of the country’s most dynamic models of justice for child welfare.

Among Judge Salyers’ accomplishments is a reduction in the court backlog. Since 1995, the volume of protective service intake has dropped and case closings have reached all time highs. In 1994, the court averaged 331 case closings per month. For the first six months of 1998, average case closings stand at 834 – an increase of 250 percent.

The success in case closings is due to Judge Salyers’ emphasis on achieving permanency for wards of the court and her aggressive stance to terminate parental rights and seek adoption for children who cannot return home. Between 1995 and 1997, termination petitions increased 104 percent, from 2,923 to 5,990. Actual terminations rose 209 percent from 1,210 in 1995 to 3,743 in 1997.

A significant increase in adoptions statewide is also credited in large part to the efforts of Judge Salyers. An all-time high of 2,229 adoptions was achieved in Fiscal Year 1997, and adoptions nearly doubled in Fiscal Year 1998, for a total of 4,293. Cook County represents 75 percent of the caseload of children in Illinois’ child welfare system.

Judge Salyers has been nationally recognized for instituting innovative programs such as the "Children Can’t Wait" conference bringing together 200 court and child welfare representatives to collaborate on how better to assist

families; a bimonthly forum of private agencies, DCFS and the court, to discuss mutual concerns; and her own Child Protection Advisory Work Group representing the court, public and private social service agencies, advocacy groups, lawyers and universities, to address court practice issues.

"I am honored to be recognized by an esteemed organization of the best and the brightest in child welfare," said Judge Salyers. "This award belongs to all those who have collaborated here in Cook County to ensure that the entire child welfare community is working together in the best interests of children. Here in Cook County, we welcome and expect all stakeholders to be a part of the solution."

Prior to serving as Presiding Judge, Salyers was a trial judge in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Division. She also served as an assistant Cook County State’s Attorney from 1977 to 1992. She is a graduate of Rosary College and DePaul University’s College of Law.

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