High-Quality Legal Representation for Parents in Child Welfare Cases Results in Improved Outcomes for Families and Potential Cost Savings

By: Elizabeth Thornton and Betsy Gwin. Published by: Family Law Quarterly. Published in 2012

Link to article

This study finds that legal representation for parents leads to children spending less time in foster care and having greater speed to permanency and adoption.

Highlights include:

  • “Improving legal representation and support for parents in child welfare proceedings results in better outcomes for children and families and can lead to substantial savings of government” (p. 139).
  • “For those families that cannot reunify, effective parent representation has significantly reduced the time children spend in foster care awaiting permanency” (p. 140) “Successful programs tend to adhere to the Practice Standards and share key features, including: appointment of parents’ attorneys early in the case; interdisciplinary teams of attorneys and social workers; caseload and performance standards; and training, supervision, and support for parents’ attorneys” (p. 141).
  • At the Center for Family Representation, “Data tracked from 2007 shows that more than 50% of children of CFR clients avoided foster-care placement all together. Where foster care could not be avoided, the project’s median length of foster care was just 2.2 months compared to a statewide average of nearly two and a half years” (p. 143).
  • “CFR becoming the primary institutional provider for parents. CFR’s services cost approximately $6,000 per family over the entire life of the case, a sum that is vastly less expensive than a single year of foster care for a single child, which in 2010 was minimally $29,000 per child per year and which can be as much as $66,000 per child per year.” (p. 144).
  • “Since opening its doors in 2009, CFA has served approximately fifty families during the child protection investigation. In 100% of those cases, the case closed with children residing with a permanent family outside of the child welfare system. The CFA team helped prevent the need for foster care placement for 112 children in less than two years. The most common legal issue that the CFA team helped clients resolve was housing, eviction, and landlord-tenant disputes” (p. 145).


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

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