Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Washington State Office of Public Defense Program Helps Children and Families in the Child Welfare SystemFebruary 10, 2011
PARTNERS FOR OUR CHILDREN
Contact: Melissa Takade, 206-221-0863 or email@example.com
February 10, 2011, Seattle, WA – A recent study by Partners for Our Children found the Parents Representation Program, which provides legal representation for parents in dependency and termination hearings, speeds reunification of children with parents. When children cannot reunify with their parents, they are adopted or enter guardianships more quickly.
Legal representation in juvenile court has long been recognized by most states as an essential protection for parents when children are taken from their custody. The Parents Representation Program (PRP) was developed by the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) and the 1999 Washington State Legislature to enhance the quality of defense representation for those parents.
The program ensures attorneys have reasonable time to prepare cases and work with clients and provides social workers, expert resources, periodic trainings, and oversight through OPD. Piloted initially in three counties in 2000, this program has shown positive results and has expanded to 25 counties across the state.
“Parents whose children have been taken from them by the state deserve decent legal representation as a basic human right, but our study shows that adequate legal support for parents also increases the likelihood that foster children will end up in a permanent home,” said lead study researcher Mark Courtney,Professor of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago and advisor to Partners for Our Children.
Joanne Moore, Administration director of Washington State’s OPD, concurs. “By protecting parents’ rights, the Parents Representation Program ensures fairness in the courts. Parents are also better able to access services and visitation with their children. Over and over, we have seen big improvements in case outcomes, for both parents and children,” she said.
In addition to helping parents and children, PRP benefits stakeholders in the child dependency process.
“The results are impressive. PRP not only gets kids home to their parents more quickly, but it gets them settled in with other permanent families if they can't go home. It's a win-win for kids, their families, the child welfare system, and the state budget,” said Jennifer Hook, research scientist at Partners for Our Children and co-researcher on this study.
For more information about PRP, the study and its findings, please visit www.partnersforourchildren.org/knowledge-center.
Partners for Our Children was founded in 2007 as a collaborative effort of the University of Washington School of Social Work, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and private funders. Since that time, POC’s research has helped DSHS learn more about the extent of poverty and the basic needs of the families in the child welfare system, and explore ways to safely bring children home to their families more quickly.
The mission of the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) is "to implement the constitutional and statutory guarantees of counsel and to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of indigent defense services funded by the state... ." RCW 2.70.005. OPD is an independent judicial branch agency. OPD’s Parents Representation Program was created to fulfill the state’s obligation to ensure Indigent parents are afforded effective counsel in dependency and termination cases.
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