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Monday, September 5, 2011 - 8:00am

Georgia Part Of Child Welfare Study

Some lawyers in Georgia will soon be changing how they handle abuse and neglect cases involving children.

Georgia is one of two study sites for a national research program to improve how children are represented in welfare systems around the nation.

More than a hundred Georgia lawyers will participate. Half will continue representing children without change; the other half will test a best-practices model that asks them to learn more about the child’s life, be more proactive in their cases, and pay more attention to how kids’ wants their cases to turn out.

“They engage with the child more directly, pursue non-adversarial resolutions of the case more often, and are more proactive on the case,” said Don Duquette, the national study’s director. Duquette is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic there.

He said the lawyers testing the new model for representing kids in welfare cases will collaborate and solve problems instead of litigating.

“We expect that kids will be removed less often from their parents. There’s a slogan, ‘remove the danger, not the child.’ This won’t happen in every case, but we think it’ll happen more often in our cases,” Duquette said. “We think that children will spend less time in foster care under this approach.”

Duquette said the researchers also expect the more assertive approach will likely save states money because kids will spend less time moving through the system and thus need fewer state resources.

He said the project selected Georgia because of strong leadership in the state’s courts on child welfare issues.