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Exploring Outcomes Related to Legal Representation for Parents Involved in Mississippi's Juvenile Dependency System, Preliminary Findings

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2013
40 pages
This study compared the outcomes of child abuse and neglect cases for parents who did and did not have legal representation in two Mississippi counties (Forrest and Rankin).
In both counties, preliminary findings indicate a trend toward more positive outcomes in cases when parents had an attorney. Parents represented by an attorney attended court more often, stipulated to fewer allegations, and had their children placed in foster care less often. In addition, parents who were represented by an attorney believed that they had a greater voice in determining case outcomes, and they understood the court process better than parents without attorneys. Still, the authors advise caution in attempts to extrapolate from the current findings. In order to understand fully the potential impact of legal representation for parents in abuse and neglect hearings, future data collection is required after the cases included in this study have closed. In addition, the current findings could be bolstered by collecting data from an additional number of cases across Rankin and Forrest Counties. Two sources of information were used in assessing the influence of attorney representation. One source was a review of 21 juvenile dependency case files from Forrest County and 69 files from Rankin County. The second source was a parent survey collected from 65 parents who are currently involved in the juvenile dependency system in DeSoto (n = 5), Forrest (n = 13), Harrison (n = 13) and Rankin (n = 34) Counties. 9 figures and 2 tables

Date Published: December 1, 2013