The Child Protection Clinic: A mixed method evaluation of parent legal representation

Wendy Haight, Jane Marshall, Joanna Woolman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Providing parents with low incomes accused of child maltreatment access to quality legal representation is both a social justice issue and potential resource for improving their children's well-being. This mixed methods research evaluates a law school clinic which provides indigent parents with legal representation by law students supervised by experienced attorneys. Thirty-nine individuals knowledgeable about the clinic (12 court professionals, 5 law school faculty, 2 parent mentors, 11 students, and 9 parent clients) participated in in-depth, semi-structured, audiotaped interviews focusing on the quality of parent representation. Interviews were contextualized by extensive participant observation and document reviews. Quantitative analyses of administrative data focused on case outcomes identified by participants as desired during qualitative interviews: family reunification, timely case closure and children's placement with relatives. Outcomes for 19 children whose parents were represented by student attorneys did not differ significantly from those of a propensity score matched comparison group of 19 children whose parents were represented by fully licensed attorneys. Participants described clinic staff as providing strong legal counsel to parents, building positive attorney-client relationships, possessing positive personal characteristics, and providing a needed service to the broader community. Participants also identified areas for improvement including: educating parents around court procedures, and better cross system collaboration between child welfare and legal professionals. The Child Protection Clinic is a promising model for providing quality legal representation to parents involved with child protection in order to support child well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Law clinic
  • Mixed methods
  • Parent legal representation
  • Parent rights


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