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Interdisciplinary Representation for Parents Improves Outcomes in Complex Child Welfare Cases


The Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel (ORPC) issued a press release sharing findings of an independent evaluation conducted by the Colorado Lab. The evaluation shows that using an interdisciplinary team to serve parents with complex needs leads to greater success in their child welfare case. Colorado’s ORPC is an independent state agency that provides legal advocacy for parents in dependency and neglect cases with the goal of protecting the fundamental right to parent.

Interdisciplinary representation pairs an attorney with a social worker or parent advocate to better serve families experiencing challenging circumstances such as substance use, homelessness, domestic violence, and previous child welfare involvement. Tailored support allows the attorney to focus on legal aspects of the case while other team members provide care and guidance to help set families up for success. 

The evaluation used the Linked Information Network of Colorado to connect legal representation data from the ORPC to Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) child welfare data over a two-year period (cases closed in 2021 and 2022). The linked dataset provided a first-ever opportunity to use CDHS’s child welfare data to measure outcomes for children and families with parent representation by the ORPC.

“To effectively support the well-being of children and families, our Office prioritizes evidence-based decision making. This is why an independent evaluation was a top priority,” said Melissa Michaelis Thompson, ORPC Executive Director. “This evaluation tells us the use of an interdisciplinary team for families with complex cases helps to keep more kids safely with their family or kin, decreases the likelihood of further involvement in the child welfare system, and provides more equitable outcomes.” 

To learn more, please contact Dr. Courtney Everson.

Key Evaluation Findings

Among families with parent representation by the ORPC:

  • A majority of kids (60%) were safely kept with their parents during the case.
  • Most children (81.3%) were reunified with parents or family following their case.
  • Fewer families (2.84%) were re-involved with the child welfare system.
  • Parents of color (45%) and parents with disabilities (50%) were served at high rates.