Former Stoneleigh Fellow Kathleen Creamer and her Community Legal Services colleagues recently completed a data analysis suggesting that their services help families stay together and reunify quickly when separated.
For decades, the Family Advocacy Unit at Community Legal Services has provided holistic family defense for parents involved in child welfare cases, pairing attorneys with social workers and paralegals to provide wrap-around support to our clients. Recently, there has been a growing recognition that children do better when their parents are provided with intensive, tailored legal support. In 2017, the federal Children’s Bureau issued an Information Memorandum highlighting the benefits of investing in high-quality legal representation for parents, including increased family engagement, shortened foster care stays, and cost savings. In recognition of these benefits, last year the federal government agreed for the first time to partially reimburse the costs that counties and states pay for parent representation.
We have long believed that our model supports good outcomes for children, and data has shown the benefits of interdisciplinary parent representation. But we were curious about outcomes for our own clients, so in 2016, we started keeping data on outcomes for children whose parents were represented by our office in new dependency cases. While these results are preliminary, our early outcomes suggest that children whose parents have our representation are significantly more likely that other dependency-involved children in Philadelphia to stay at home or with family, and reunify with their family at a much faster rate if they must be separated. In this post, we share our outcomes on two key indicators in child welfare: kinship care and time to reunification.