Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach to Parental Representation in Child Welfare

By: Lucas A. Gerber and colleagues. Published by: Children and Youth Services Review. Published in 2019.

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Researchers at Action Research, New York University, Casey Family Programs, and the Center for Law and Justice at Rutgers University analyzed the impact of interdisciplinary representation (i.e., having a legal team which incorporates other professionals like social workers, parent advocates, interpreters, and specialized attorneys) for parents in child welfare proceedings in the New York City Family Court. They studied the foster care and safety outcomes of 9,582 families and 18,288 children.

They found that when parents received interdisciplinary representation, children spent an average of 118 fewer days in foster care during the four years following the abuse or neglect case filing. Children whose parents received interdisciplinary representation achieved overall permanency, reunification, and guardianship more quickly.

  • Parent interdisciplinary law office (ILO) representation leads to shorter time in foster care. “On average, a child who enters out-of-home care will spend 658 days in foster care through 48 months of petition filing if an ILO attorney represents their parent, compared to 776 days if a panel attorney represents their parent – 118 fewer days with ILO representation” (p. 51).
  • ILO representation leads to faster reunification and guardianship. For children whose parents had representation, they “achieved reunification approximately 43% more often in the first year; 25% more often in the second year; and 8% more often in the third year. With respect to guardianship, children achieved guardianship approximately 106% more often in the first year; 67% more often in the second year; 36% more often in the third year; and 10% more often in the fourth year” (p. 52).
  • ILO representation leads to greater permanency. For children whose parents had representation, they “achieved permanency approximately 34% more often in the first year; 25% more often in the second year; 17% more often in the third year; and 9% more often in the fourth year” (p. 51).
  • ILO representation leads to government savings. Using a foster care boarding rate of $83.83 for family foster care in New York City, ILO “yields an annual savings of almost $40 M for a fully implemented programs.” The researchers suspect actual government savings would be greater because this estimate does not include the costs of children in residential treatment or group care, or higher costs due to children with behavioral, developmental, or medical challenges (p. 53).


Categories: Children, Family, Family, Legal Aid Attorneys, Legal Aid Practitioners, News Media, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics, State-Specific, Victims of Crime

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