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Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability

Child Welfare Legal Services Should Be Provided by DCF or Private Law Firms, Report No. 04-05, January 2004
Full report in PDF format

  • Child Welfare Legal Services attorneys represent the Department of Children and Families (DCF) at each stage of dependency proceedings.  We examined four options for providing this service:  contracting with other government entities, for-profit law firms, and not-for-profit entities, and retaining the service within DCF.
  • We concluded that there are two feasible options—contracting with private law firms and retaining the function within DCF.  Transferring the responsibility to state attorneys or the Attorney General is not feasible because they do not wish to expand their involvement in the function.  Contracting with lead agencies is not feasible as it would create potential conflicts of interest.
  • Contracting with private law firms would have uncertain cost impacts.  If the service is retained within DCF, the department should take steps to improve staff professional development and accountability.  The department also should adopt best practices to improve the services regardless of how they are provided.  The Legislature also should consider clarifying whose interests are represented by CWLS attorneys in dependency proceedings.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Family Safety
Justice Administrative Commission, State Attorneys
Office of the Attorney General (Department of Legal Affairs)

What other OPPAGA-related materials are available?

  • Report No. 05-47 Progress Report: Child Welfare Legal Services Makes Some Improvements, But Other Changes Needed, published in September 2005.
  • Report No. 96-44 Evaluation of Child Welfare Legal Services Pilot Projects, published in January 1997.

Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021), by FAX (850/487-9213), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312, 111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475).
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