Research Report: Assessing a Parent Representation Program in Texas

July 8, 2013

NCJFCJ considers the appointment of early legal representation for indigent parents as a “best practice” in juvenile dependency proceedings. This Research Memo uses data from a parent representation pilot program in the Travis County, Texas Model Court to answer four questions: 1) Does assigning attorneys early (i.e., at the ex parte hearing) relate to differences in the timeliness to the final order date?; 2) Does assigning attorneys early relate to differences in the appearance of parents and parent attorneys at hearings across the life of the case?; 3) Does assigning attorneys early relate to differences in placement outcomes for children?; and 4) Does the presence of parents and/or parent attorneys across the life of the case relate to placement outcomes for children?

Cases involved in the pilot program (ones that received an attorney at petition filing) were compared to cases not involved in the pilot program (ones that may or may not have received an attorney across the life of the case). Analyses revealed pilot program involvement was related to shorter time from ex parte hearing to full appointment, more consistent attorney appointment, an increase in parent attorney presence at hearings over the life of the case, and an increase in positive placement outcomes. An increase in parent presence over the life of the case was related to an increased likelihood of reunification or case dismissal, and a decreased likelihood of permanent management conservatorship. Cases that took less than 10 days from ex parte hearing to full appointment resulted in more positive outcomes than cases that took more than 10 days.

The full report:

Two-page Research Snapshot of the report: