The Colorado Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel (ORPC) provides legal representation for indigent parents involved in child welfare proceedings. The ORPC is committed to data-driven decision-making and smart state investments. To continuously strengthen their work to protect the fundamental right to parent, the ORPC partnered with the Colorado Lab to build evidence for representation models across the continuum of legal advocacy efforts. This project is also building the internal capacity of the ORPC to routinely evaluate the effectiveness of representation models and use evaluation findings to inform strategic planning.
Colorado Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel
Linked Information Network of Colorado
An interdisciplinary team model pairs an attorney with a social worker or a parent advocate who has lived experience. Drawing on the unique strengths of each member, they work as a cohesive team of parent defenders to support families involved in dependency and neglect cases and protect the fundamental right to parent. Together, the ORPC and the Colorado Lab are moving the interdisciplinary team model of parent representation through the Steps to Building Evidence, using a phased study approach to explore model foundations (Phase I) and outcomes (Phases II and III). The ORPC is using information generated through the evidence-building process to (a) guide strategic learning and continuous quality improvement; and (b) learn how investment in this model can improve family reunification, promote parental dignity, and reduce long-term fiscal and societal costs of systems involvement.
Preventive legal services provide proactive legal support to parents before a child welfare case is filed. This representation is intended to safely reduce unnecessary removals of children that are driven by issues related to poverty, joblessness, substandard housing, and other situations that could be remediated through the provision of legal services. As they build their program, the Colorado Lab is working with the ORPC on early steps to building evidence, including helping to define the program model, developing an implementation guide, identifying opportunities to enhance implementation, and assessing program reach and early outcomes.