On Legal Fees for Parents and Children, Trump Administration Scores One for Basic Republican Values

As a registered Republican for more than 40 years, I am heartened by a recent reform by the Children’s Bureau of the Trump administration. It increases flexibility for states to manage their child protection systems, with the Social Security Title IV-E entitlement opened up to support high-quality legal representation for children and parents.

Robert Fellmeth, director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute. Photo courtesy of CAI.

Studies indicate that having legal representation for children means less time in foster care, a faster path toward permanency, shorter court cases and reduced costs for states. This change is consistent with the new Family First Prevention Services Act and the Children’s Bureau’s vision on primary prevention. Supporting legal representation when children are still with their families helps advance this commitment to keep American families safe and together.

This is especially true when states intervene to remove children only to place them in expensive and ineffective group homes. The cost of these attorneys amounts to less than 3 percent of money spent on foster care for children, and will save a lot more than that on the 97 percent otherwise spent.  Instead of more kids being shuffled around in $4,000-plus per month group homes and raised by employees, we have a new policy aimed at intervening earlier on the spectrum to preserve family integrity when possible and prevent the worst outcomes produced by foster care.

I have been a longstanding consumer advocate, albeit one advocating consistently for deregulation and restoration of market forces where possible. Here is a decision consistent with those values – a sensible decision prior administrations failed to execute. Kudos for honoring the finest Republican values of family and efficient government.

Professor Robert C. Fellmeth is the director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law.

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WEBINAR ALERT!

Learn more about the federal rule change to provide legal representation to children and parents involved in the child welfare system in our exclusive webinarA New Era of Funding Family Justice, with Leslie Heimov and Vivek Sankaran on Feb. 21st. Hosted by John Kelly, Editor-in-Chief for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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