Mississippi pilots show significant benefit of counsel in child welfare cases
01/15/2021, Pilot, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents
UPDATE: newest data shows incredible results of parent representation
A newly-available report highlights that in the pilot counties providing parent representation, the number of children in foster care dropped from 2,701 to 1,513 in just 3 years. This translates to a savings to the State of nearly $6 million a year.
Mississippi is the only state in the country that does not authorize judges to appoint counsel for parents in child welfare and termination of parental rights cases. However, in conjunction with Casey Family Programs, pilot representation projects are operating in four Mississippi counties to test the impact of providing counsel to parents. The pilots are running in 4 counties, although the initial data report only addresses two of the counties. The pilots are funded by Casey Family Programs, and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) has been doing the data analysis in partnership with the ABA.
NCJFCJ has released a preliminary data report; there is a 2-page summary sheet and the full report. The bottom line is that at one of the pilot sites, mothers with attorneys got more access to services, cases were resolved in a more timely fashion (speed to adjudication without increased number of continuances), and cases with attorneys were more likely to get dismissed. In the other pilot site, there was an insufficient number of cases to draw any meaningful conclusion.
Articles in the Clarion-Ledger and Natchez Democrat have covered the pilots. You can also read more about the pilots in our comprehensive bibliography.
The NCCRC has been doing some consulting on the pilot projects.