Honors Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Human, R. (2019). Parent Engagement and Perceptions of Fairness in the Douglas County Child Welfare System: A FIRST Court Program Evaluation. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.


Copyright Rebecca Human 2019.


The current evaluation examines FIRST Court, a therapeutic problem-solving court that has been implemented in the Douglas County Juvenile Court system since January 2017. This thesis discusses how FIRST Court is changing the way parents assigned to the court participate and engage with the court process, and whether or not those changes affect the way parents perceive the court process as a whole. Previous research has shown that problem-solving courts have the potential to improve case outcomes. Problem-solving courts often use methods of therapeutic jurisprudence that encourage parent participation to increase perceptions of procedural justice. Previous research has also shown that improved perceptions of the court process lead to improved compliance with court orders and laws. To conduct our analysis, evaluators used court hearing observation forms and parent surveys to assess whether parents in FIRST Court participated more, were more involved and engaged during hearings, and saw the court process in a more positive light. Our findings show that FIRST Court is increasing parent participation in court, but that improvements in parent perceptions of the court and court process are still inconclusive.