Effects of Parental and Attorney Involvement on Reunification in Juvenile Dependency Cases

By: Steve M. Wood and Jesse R. Russell. Published by: Children and Youth Services Review. Published on: April 28, 2011

Link to article

The abstract reads:

“Individuals in the dependency system believe that it is important to have parties present at early decision making hearings without much empirical support. This paper examines how involvement of mothers, fathers, and their respective legal representatives at early decision-making hearings (i.e., preliminary protective, adjudication, disposition, and first review) influences reunification in juvenile dependency cases. Cox proportional-hazard models indicate the likelihood over time of returning children to the parents they were removed from was significantly higher when the mother and the mother’s attorney was present at early decision-making hearings. Results also indicate that the presence of the father significantly increased the likelihood of returning children to the parents they were removed from at only two specific case events. The presence of the father’s legal representative was a significant predictor of reunification at the disposition hearing only. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.”

Highlights include:

  • “First, having mothers present at the preliminary protective, adjudication, disposition, and first review hearings increases children’s chances of being reunified with their families. Second, assigning mothers legal counsel at or before one of these four early decision-making hearings will also increase the chances of reunification” (p. 1735).
  • “The current study finds that children whose mothers were present at each of the four early hearings in California and Colorado were more likely to be reunified with their parent(s), and this reunification occurred sooner across the life of the case than children whose mothers were not present at these early hearings. Similar findings were made for children whose mothers’ legal representative were present at each of the four early decision-making hearings compared to children whose mothers’ legal representative were not present” (p. 1736).
  • “Children whose fathers were present at the disposition hearing in California and Colorado were more likely to be reunified, and more expediently than children whose fathers were not present at this hearing. Similar outcomes occurred for children whose fathers’ legal representative was present at the disposition hearing compared to children whose fathers’ legal representative was not present” (p. 1736).


Categories: Children, Family, Family, Legal Aid Attorneys, Legal Aid Practitioners, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics, State Comparison

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