Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Public Defense Office Issues Report on Equal Justice Needs for Parents in Washington StateFebruary 26, 2002
The 41-page report, available online at www.opd.wa.gov, evaluates impacts of increased representation in Benton-Franklin and Pierce County Juvenile Courts from August 2000 through November 2001.
Results of enhanced legal representation for parents include:
--Reunification between parents and children increasing up to an average of 60 percent.
--Dramatic declines in attorney delays and continuances.
--Significant savings potential to the state in yearly foster care payments and/or paid adoption support payments after judicial officers determine children can be safely reunified with their families.
“This is an equal justice issue for thousands of parents throughout our state,” said OPD Director Joanne Moore. Noting that under the law, safe family reunifications are a primary goal of court proceedings,
The pilot project was instituted in response to a 1999 OPD report documenting severe inequities between funding spent on the state’s case against parents and county funding provided for parents’ representation. In addition to increased funding for parents’ attorneys, the ’99 report also called for mandatory defense practice standards.
In releasing the pilot project report,
To measure long-term impacts of improved defense services on the children and parents involved, OPD is requesting a one-year extension of legislative funding for the pilot project.
A judicial branch agency, OPD was created by the Legislature in 1996 in order to implement the constitutional guarantee of the right to counsel.
CONTACT: Joanne Moore, Office of Public Defense, 360-956-2107.
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